In quest for electric supercars, engineers head to start-ups | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

20 June, Thursday


In quest for electric supercars, engineers head to start-ups

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Rene-Christopher Wollmann, head of Mercedes-AMG’s 2.75 million euros Project One supercar program, has moved to a job at Automobili Pininfarina in a sign that innovation in high-end electric sportscars is shifting toward small start-ups.

Wollman’s move, which has not been made public, comes at a time when big carmakers, like Volkswagen and Mercedes, have been blindsided by stricter and costly emissions tests, forcing them to focus resources on mainstream electric models and on cleaning up their combustion engines.

Meanwhile, advances in virtual engineering allow even small teams of engineers to develop roadworthy vehicles using software to design, engineer and test prototypes. This dynamic has already helped Tesla and China’s Nio steal a march on much larger rivals in the premium electric sportscar segment.

“Large companies take time to transform. And I am good at hypercars. I just did Project One, and now this opportunity came,” 37-year-old Wollmann told Reuters about his reason for joining Automobili Pininfarina, a Munich-based electric carmaker that launched last year.

Project One, which has a modified Formula One engine, was due to go on sale this year but has been delayed by problems getting road worthiness certification following the introduction of WLTP emissions test standards, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Premium or high-performance electric sports cars are equivalent to the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the conventional auto world. These so-called supercars can cost anything from about $100,000 up into the millions of dollars and include Tesla’s upcoming Roadster Founder Series, which will sell for over $200,000 and the Rimac Concept Two, priced in the region of $2 million.

The emerging role of start-ups in the development of the premium electric market harks back to an era over a century ago when talented engineers like Gottlieb Daimler and Ferdinand Porsche were able to launch sportscar brands on modest budgets.

Players leading the way include the likes of Automobili Pininfarina, Croatia’s Rimac, China’s Nio and Italian engineering shop Italy’s Miniatura Automobili Torino (MAT).

But because of the high initial investment needed, with no guarantee of success in a niche market, boutique supercar manufacturers face significant risks if they try to develop more than one vehicle or shift to becoming mainstream carmakers.

Reuters

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