Italian EV startup takes on US-Chinese rivals in design

MILAN – Elon Musk’s Tesla paved the way almost two decades ago. Now the global transition to fully electric vehicles is littered with startups, inspired by a new era of mobility and lured by the lower cost of building electric vehicles compared to their fossil fuel-guzzling ancestors.

Gone are the billion-dollar investments that made old-school auto manufacturing such a cash cow. Suppliers offer pre-engineered generic electrical platforms, and manufacturers can contract for assembly—approaches that result in savings in jobs and infrastructure.

What so far in the new EV formulaaccording to the Milan startup AEHRA, is a fresh design concept.

“Electric vehicles are viewed as boring by the general public,” said Hazim Nada, CEO of AEHRA. “It is very easy to build an extremely powerful electric vehicle. It’s not that easy to build an electric vehicle with character. And I think that’s one of the elements Italians need to express.”

Nada has hired a former Lamborghini designer to bring Italian emotion to its vehicles, emphasizing aerodynamics over performance.

But the company wants to enter an increasingly crowded market of EV startups and traditional automakers pushed to tackle the auto emissions that help climate change. Some startups have had little success.

AEHRA does not plan to launch its first vehicles — an SUV and a sedan — until mid-2025, with annual production starting at 20,000 to 25,000 vehicles. The ultra-premium cars are also planning a corresponding price – $160,000 to $180,000.

You are expected roll out first in the United States and key markets in Europe before expanding into China. This would be followed by an initial production investment of 700 million euros (dollars).

“We don’t spend much,” Nada said. “This is because we continue to develop the materials in such a way that the production chain is very small compared to the existing production routes.”

Nada made most of the startup money trading crude oil in London and honed his passion for aerodynamics by building the world’s largest vertical wind tunnel, AeroGravity, an attraction north of Milan that allows anyone to experience free fall.

While AEHRA’s cars are aimed at an affluent demographic as inflation bites the middle class and low-income earners, battery-powered vehicles in general have gained broader consumer acceptance and governments are pushing automakers away from internal combustion engines.

US wealth management and research firm Bernstein predicts that a quarter of all cars sold will be battery electric or plug-in hybrids by 2025, which will double by 2030. It points to ambitious rollout schedules and regulatory support.

The European Union is Ban on the sale of new fossil fuel cars by 2035, leading to new players with lower start-up costs while penalizing legacy automakers that have invested billions in hybrids as bridging technologies.

According to the European Automotive Manufacturers Association, battery electric vehicles saw the strongest growth of any fuel type in the third quarter, up 22% to over 259,000 units. This corresponds to a market share of 12%.

U.S. market share is smaller at about 6%, but Bernstein expects that to accelerate significantly with U.S. policies like tighter fuel efficiency standards.

As interest grows, dozens of new startups are entering a crowded market alongside it Pioneer Tesla and traditional automakers, some with centuries-old track records. In the US alone, there are 417 EV startups, according to research by Bernstein, some of which provide cautionary tales.

California-based Faraday Future has invested billions in an electric car it has yet to build. Others, like Lucid or Rivian, that have gone into production are struggling to get components due to global supply chain bottlenecks, said Sam Abuelsamid, senior e-mobility analyst at Guidehouse Insights.

At the same time, Chinese manufacturers are pushing into Europe with a view to the US market. In the Italian luxury market, Ferrari and Lamborghini have announced plans for their own electric vehicles.

“Things are going to be a lot harder for Tesla now than they were a decade ago when they were basically the only brand making a premium, high-performance EV. And now there are dozens of brands competing for the same dollar,” Abuelsamid said.

Another risk is service and support, especially when rolling out in large regions without integrated sales and service networks, Abuelsamid said.

AEHRA’s plans mainly involve online sales and regional service centers, Nada said.

In terms of design, AEHRA hopes to draw market attention away from the architecture of an internal combustion engine, which Nada says has been conditioned by thermal management.

The AEHRA vehicle body moves away from the edges that have defined the muscularity of supercars in recent years and returns to a smoother line reminiscent of pre-war car design.

This aesthetic shift improves the car’s aerodynamics, which Filippo Perini, AEHRA Chief Design Officer, says will help increase range. The reconstruction of the classic interior design will create more cabin space for passenger comfort, he added.

Nada is convinced that young consumers will be less attached to the nameplates of their previous generations and will be willing to buy a car from a new entrant that offers an emotional change.

“We’re not in the Ferrari market, we’re not in the Lambo market,” he said. “Our vehicles are not the same segment of Tesla. We believe we can coexist.”

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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/11/08/italian-ev-startup-takes-on-us-chinese-rivals-with-design/ Italian EV startup takes on US-Chinese rivals in design

Sarah Y. Kim

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