Volkswagen boosts investment in electric and autonomous car technology
Volkswagen has boosted its planned investment on digital and electric vehicle technologies to $86 billion over the next five years as it seeks to remain the world’s largest carmaker in a new green era.
The carmaker said it would allocate almost half of its investment budget of 150 billion Euros on e-mobility, hybrid cars, a seamless software-based vehicle operating system and self-driving technologies.
A global clampdown on emissions, partly triggered by Volkswagen’s diesel pollution scandal in 2015, has forced carmakers to accelerate the development of low-emission technology, even for their low-margin mainstream models. Volkswagen has said that the European Union’s more stricter emissions targets will force it to boost the proportion of hybrid and electric vehicles in its European car sales to 60% by 2030. This has already led Volkswagen to review the future of its Lamborghini, Bugatti and Ducati brands as it seeks to increase economies of scale for the shift to mass-produced electric cars.
In its new plan, Volkswagen is doubling its spending on digitalization to 27 billion Euros, to develop its new vehicle operating system and self-driving technologies. Approximately 35 billion Euros of the spending budget money will be invested in e-mobility, and 11 billion Euros has been earmarked for the development of new hybrid cars.
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Asia-Pacific countries form world’s largest trading bloc
Fifteen countries have formed the world’s largest trading bloc, which covers almost one third of the global economy. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is made up of 10 Southeast Asian countries, as well as South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The pact is seen as an extension of China’s influence in the region, and the deal excludes the US which withdrew from a rival Asia-Pacific trade pact in 2017 shortly after President Donald Trump took office.
The membership to the RCEP includes a larger group of nations, notably reflecting the membership of China, which considerably boosts the total GDP of RCEP members. While China already has a number of bilateral trade agreements, this is the first time it has signed up to a regional multilateral trade pact.
Leaders hope the pact will spur recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, and the new free trade bloc will be bigger than both the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union. The RCEP is expected to eliminate a range of tariffs on imports within 20 years, including provisions on intellectual property, telecommunications, financial services, e-commerce and professional services.
But some analysts think that the deal will likely benefit China, Japan and South Korea more than the other member states. However, it may be some time before any country sees the benefits, especially because six Asean nations and three other nations need to ratify it before it takes effect, which could be a slow process.
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Canadian supply chain preparing for distribution of future COVID-19 vaccine
A second large pharmaceutical company has announced promising trial results for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, and Canadian companies are preparing to pitch in to the logistical challenges of storing millions of doses in hyper-cold temperatures.
Ontario-based company Danby, the maker of compact appliances such as fridges, freezers and air conditioners, will soon announce the production of a new line of -80 C freezers. The company is finalizing specifications and will announce the new line soon. Full production will take approximately 120 days.
Super-cold storage will be required in hospitals, pharmacies and courier hubs across Canada in order to handle an estimated 70 million vials of vaccines which require two doses for each recipient.
The news gives some hope while COVID-19 cases surge in Canada, the US and many parts of the world. But the challenge of producing and distributing a future vaccine to millions looms large.
Extreme cold storage will be required at central distribution hubs where vaccine vials could stay for days or weeks. During last mile courier deliveries, temperatures can be maintained by ice packs, dry ice or other packaging.
The distribution system is already in place to handle vaccines for the flu and other immunizations, as well as a wide range of time-sensitive cancer therapeutics and other drugs. Distributing a COVID-19 vaccine builds on that experience, and will take governments, manufacturers and supply chains all pulling together to make sure this is done right.
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