Connect with us

Business

Volkswagen takes on US, China rivals with battery factory

Published

on

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz symbolically plugs in a battery as Volkswagen began construction of its first factory to make batteries for its electric cars
Share this:

Volkswagen celebrated Thursday the beginning of work on its first in-house battery factory, as the German auto giant looks to head off competition from US and Chinese electric vehicle upstarts.

The firm plans to “steer the worldwide battery offensive” from the new plant in Salzgitter in central Germany, CEO Herbert Diess told a ceremony attended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Volkswagen has set itself the ambitious aim of becoming the world’s biggest electric car manufacturer by 2025, pouring a total of 46 billion euros ($46.8 billion) over the next five years into the drive.

“If Germany and Europe don’t want to be left behind by the US and China, we need to focus more on the technologies of the future,” Diess said.

The Salzgitter complex, where currently thousands of combustion engines roll off the factory line every day, is set to be the centre of Volkswagen’s electric ecosystem.

Two billion euros are being invested in the battery plant through 2026, with the potential for the site to turn out batteries for 500,000 vehicles a year.

The plan will also serve as a blueprint for a fleet of battery plants in Europe.

– ‘Sustainable, climate-compatible’ –

Up until now both legacy carmakers like Volkswagen have largely relied on Asian, notably Chinese, battery makers to fit their vehicles.

Western auto giants are keen to bring production in house, to minimise supply disruptions and pocket the added value from battery production.

“Reliance” on distant suppliers had shown itself to be a “big risk” for manufacturers, said Scholz, who placed the last unit of a ceremonial foundation battery.

“Today is a good day for the automotive industry in Germany and Europe,” he said, adding that VW was paving the way in “sustainable, climate-compatible mobility”.

Scholz said Europe’s top economy aimed to have 15 million electric vehicles on its streets by 2030.  

Volkswagen’s new PowerCo unit plans to invest more than 20 billion euros together with partners, with the aim of generating annual sales in excess of 20 billion euros and employing up to 20,000 people in Europe alone. Around 5,000 will be employed in Salzgitter.

In total, Volkswagen plans to open six plants together with partners in Europe, with another to come in the United States, according to Diess.

The first, a collaboration with battery maker Northvolt, will open in 2023 in Sweden, followed by the Salzgitter site in 2025.

Volkswagen has tapped Valencia, in Spain, to house a battery plant, with discussions under way for other locations in other existing production locations in Europe.

Key competitor Tesla opened its first European factory outside Berlin earlier this year. The site in Gruenheide is set to be complemented by its own battery plant.

Share this:

Business

Flight tracking exposure irks billionaires and baddies

How to upset Russian freight companies, Elon Musk, Chinese authorities and Kylie Jenner in one go? Track their jets. 

Published

on

By

The Flightradar24 app is seen on a smartphone in front of a screen showing the live position of planes tracked by the app in the area of Los Angeles on August 5, 2022
Share this:

How to upset Russian freight companies, Elon Musk, Chinese authorities and Kylie Jenner in one go? Track their jets.

Flight following websites and Twitter accounts offer real-time views of air traffic –- and sometimes major news like Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip –- but that exposure draws pushback ranging from complaints to gear seizures.

Whether Russian air freight firms, Saudi Arabian plane owners or others, Dan Streufert said his group gets dozens of “requests” each year to stop posting aircrafts’ whereabouts.

“We have not removed anything so far. This is all public information. And I don’t want to be the arbiter of who’s right and who’s wrong,” added Streufert, founder of the US-based flight tracking site ADS-B Exchange.

Limits do apply in some cases, but groups that piece together the flight paths note that the core information source is legally available and open to anyone with the right gear.

US rules require planes in designated areas be equipped with ADS-B technology that broadcasts aircraft positions using signals that relatively simple equipment can pick up.

A service like Sweden-based Flightradar24 has 34,000, mostly volunteer-operated receivers around the world to pick up the signals, a key source of information that’s routed back to a central network and combined with data on flight schedules and aircraft information.

Figuring out or confirming to whom a plane actually belongs can require some sleuthing, said jet tracker Jack Sweeney, who filed a public records request with the US government that yielded a form bearing the signature of a particular plane’s owner: Tesla boss Elon Musk.

Sweeney has gotten quite a bit of attention with his Twitter account that tracks the movements of the billionaire’s plane and even rejected Musk’s offer of $5,000 to shut down @ElonJet, which has over 480,000 followers.

“There’s so much traction, I’m doing something right. The celebrity thing –- people like seeing what celebrities are doing, that and the whole emissions thing,” he told AFP, referring to concerns over the planes’ greenhouse gas impact.

“Putting it on Twitter makes it easier for people to access and understand,” Sweeney added.

– ‘We will track anything’ –

Another of Sweeney’s Twitter accounts, powered by data from ADS-B Exchange, showed in July that US model and celebrity Kylie Jenner’s plane took a flight in California that lasted just 17 minutes.

The internet was not pleased and she faced a torrent of criticism on social media over concerns about the message it sent regarding climate change.

“They tell us working class people to feel bad about our once a year flight to a much needed vacation while these celebs take private jets every other day as if it’s an Uber,” tweeted @juliphoria, in an example of the outrage.

Neither Sweeney nor Streufert evoked a distinct redline they were concerned could be crossed by publishing the flight data.

“We will track anything because honestly, if somebody really was a bad actor, and they wanted to know where this stuff is, you can build the electronics for $100 and just deploy receivers to pick up the same signals yourself,” said Streufert from ADS-B Exchange.

Sweeney said “the data is already out there. I’m just redistributing it.”

There is also money to be made, but it’s not clear how much –- Streufert acknowledged he makes a living but declined to provide specifics and Sweeney said his flight tracking work brought in about $100 a month. Flightradar24 didn’t provide its revenue.

The services’ information -– as recently shown by the hundreds of thousands watching whether Pelosi would defy China’s warnings –- has significant potential for impact far beyond embarrassment of celebrities or the rankling of billionaires.

For example, ADS-B Exchange’s data was cited in a non-profit group’s report alleging Europe’s border agency Frontex worked to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean, while US media used it to show surveillance planes flew over racial justice protests in Washington in 2020.

In fact, dozens of US Congress members responded to the revelations by signing on to a letter urging the FBI and other government entities like the National Guard to “cease surveilling peaceful protests immediately and permanently.”

In some parts of the world, governments have made clear the technology and resulting information is not welcome.

Chinese state media reported in 2021 that the government had recently confiscated hundreds of receivers used in crowd-sourced flight tracking, citing the risk of “espionage.”

“In many cases, it’s authoritarian regimes that don’t like this exposure,” Streufert said.

Share this:
Continue Reading

Business

WSJ reports Pfizer in talks to acquire Global Blood Therapeutics for $5-billion

Published

on

By

A man walks past the Pfizer logo on the drug maker's headquarters in New York
Share this:

American drugmaker Pfizer is close to a deal to purchase Global Blood Therapeutics, which manufactures a recently approved drug against sickle-cell anemia, for $5 billion, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Pfizer, one of the top makers of Covid-19 vaccines, hopes to conclude talks with GBT within days, the newspaper said Friday, citing people close to the negotiations.

But it said other takeover candidates remain in the running.

GBT’s sickle-cell treatment, marketed as Oxbryta, was authorized for those over 12 years old in 2019 but gained federal approval in December for children aged four to 11. The blood disorder affects millions.

Sales of Oxbryta helped the laboratory generate first-quarter turnover of $55 million (up 41 percent), while the company registered a net loss of $81.4 million.

GBT, which is based in San Francisco, California, is to publish its second-quarter numbers on Monday.

Pfizer, for its part, saw its second-quarter turnover jump by 47 percent — to a record $27.74 billion — boosted by sales of its Covid vaccine and pills.

Its net profit soared by 78 percent, to $9.9 billion.

GBT shares on the New York Stock Exchange were up 33.03 percent at the close on Friday, at $63.84, for a market capitalization of more than $4 billion.

Pfizer shares slipped by 1.18 percent, to $49.27.

Share this:
Continue Reading

Business

Amazon to buy Roomba-maker iRobot in $1.7-billion deal

Published

on

By

Amazon said it will buy iRobot for $61 per share along with acquiring the company's debt
Share this:

Amazon on Friday announced a $1.7 billion deal to buy the maker of robotic vacuum Roomba in a merger that would play into the tech giant’s artificial intelligence and smart home ambitions.

US-based iRobot is a global company that builds robots and “intelligent home” innovations, having introduced Roomba self-operating vacuums a decade ago, Amazon said in a release.

“Over many years, the iRobot team has proven its ability to reinvent how people clean with products that are incredibly practical and inventive,” said Amazon senior vice president of devices Dave Limp.

Amazon’s deal to buy iRobot for $61 per share along with acquiring the company’s debt is subject to approval of shareholders and regulators.

Colin Angle is to remain chief executive of iRobot after the purchase.

The acquisition “reinforces Amazon’s interest and market position in robotics and home automation, and underscores the strategic value of AI,” Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said in a note to investors.

The Massachusetts-based company has a 30-year track record in robotics, and underlying software such as mapping and navigation, Sebastian said.

Amazon has been investing in smart home and automation technologies with acquisitions such as Ring doorbells, Kiva warehouse robots and self-driving startup Zoox.

“With Alexa and Amazon.com at the core, Amazon continues to prioritize opportunities to develop the smart home,” Sebastian said.

“MGM even fits as it powers more Prime Video on home entertainment devices.”

Amazon earlier this year closed an $8.45 billion deal to buy the storied MGM studios, boosting its streaming ambitions with a catalog including the James Bond and Rocky film franchises.

Share this:
Continue Reading

Featured