SAAB Comes Back EV

A new joint venture between China’s National Modern Energy Holdings and Japan’s Sun Investment, is placing a very big bet on the future of electric vehicles. Specifically, upscale electric vehicles aimed at the domestic Chinese market, where were the rapidly rising, increasingly affluent Chinese middle class all to opt for petroleum fuelled internal combustion engine vehicles, the rest of the world would suddenly find price rationing the only way of balancing oil supply with oil demand.

The new joint venture, is a bet that China is serious about its commitment to making China a leader in EV production, research and usage, as per the current Chnese five year plan, and that the incoming younger new leadership replacing the old, at the end of the year, will carry out the rest of the five year plan. So far China’s auto buyers have remained sceptical on the current EVs on offer, citing the same problems as in the west, range anxiety, cost, and lack of recharging facilities and length of recharging time.

Leaving aside whether the new joint venture has any access to China’s future EV policy, major technology changes are virtually at hand, involving EV’s weight,  the batteries, and power management issues, that make the next generation of coming EVs, likely to be far more acceptable to the public. The new group seem intending to have SAAB capitalise on these coming developments.

Saab set to reemerge as electric car maker
SAAB Automobile is set to be reborn as an electric car maker after a Japanese and Chinese consortium agreed to buy it out of bankruptcy.
By Graham Ruddick 8:04PM BST 13 Jun 2012

National Modern Energy Holdings, an alternative energy group based in Hong Kong, and Japanese investment firm Sun Investment plan to use the Swedish car maker’s manufacturing facilities in Trollhättan, Sweden to develop and produce upmarket electric cars that will be focused on Chinese consumers.

Saab filed for bankruptcy last December after Spyker, the Dutch sports car maker that bought the company from General Motors in 2010, failed to turn around its ailing performance.

Spyker attempted to strike a rescue deal with Chinese car maker Youngman, but GM refused to authorise the transfer of technology to China.

Under the new deal, the joint venture, called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), is buying the main assets of Saab apart from Saab Automobile Parks and intellectual property rights for the Saab 9-5 owned by GM.

Nevs plans to develop an electric car based on the Saab 9-3 using Japanese technology. This will be launched in 2013 or 2014 with marketing and sales focused on China, which Nevs say is set to become the “largest and most important electric vehicle market”.

The founder of National Modern Energy Holdings, Kai Johan Jiang, is a Chinese businessman with Swedish citizenship. He said: “China is investing heavily in developing the EV market, which is a key driver for the ongoing technology shift to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

From our REE perspective, this will add to China’s domestic demand for their own REE supply, and also add to the strength of their defence at the World Trade Organisation complaint, i.e. that they will increasingly need their REE supply for their own domestic economy.  On reading the news, it made me think that this might go a long way to pushing Tasman Metal’s Norra Karr Swedish REE project along. Time for a Tasman visit to SAAB at Trollhättan? Time for a new punt in Tasman? Time to take another look at the EV pipeline.

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