Friday Rundown: Honda VR, Switzerland Considered EV Ban, Aston Martin Goes Metaverse, Apple Still Searching

Switzerland Considered Banning the Use of EVs During Power Shortages

Honda has announced that it is using advanced virtual reality (VR) technology to develop future products, including the full-electric 2024 Honda Prologue and the 2023 Honda Pilot. The automaker says that VR has become a critical tool for its designers in the development of future mobility products.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions threatened to hinder the ability of Honda designers to collaborate with engineers on the design of the all-new Prologue. However, the styling team in the Honda Design Studio in Los Angeles accelerated the use of VR to bridge the divide among its global design and development teams.

Utilizing VR, the LA-based design team was able to accelerate collaboration with various engineering and design groups using VR environments. The computer-aided design model enabled global design teams to receive immediate feedback and apply refinements to the clay modeling, color, material, and finishes related to the EV model. As a result, the development of the Prologue remained on track, and the real-time global collaboration advanced the team’s capabilities and the role of VR design moving forward.

“Incorporating virtual and augmented reality in the design process allowed our Honda engineers and designers to merge digital content and physical assets in a cohesive way to interact with what they’re experiencing and touching in an immersive environment,” said Mathieu Geslin, VR technology leader, Honda Design studio.

Switzerland considered an EV ban

But, the future of EVs might be in jeopardy. At least the near-term future, as the battle for energy conservation rages throughout Europe.

Switzerland was recently considering banning the use of electric vehicles during power shortages as part of a plan to conserve energy amid concerns about potential shortages.

The restrictions are part of a draft proposal that includes reducing the temperature of washing machines, banning the use of leaf blowers, and slowing video streaming to standard definition. The proposal is still in the draft stage and no timetable has been set for its implementation.

Winter means slow-down

Most of Switzerland’s electricity comes from hydroelectric generation, but production slows in the winter months, forcing the country to rely on imported energy from Germany and France. Natural gas is a key source of energy in those countries, and sanctions placed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine have led to energy shortages across Europe.

It is unclear at this time whether the electric-car restrictions will be implemented in Switzerland. The proposal is still in the draft stage and no timetable has been set for its implementation.

However, the inclusion of electric-car restrictions in the proposal shows that the government is taking the potential for energy shortages seriously.

The power restrictions are part of a larger austerity package that includes measures to conserve energy across a range of industries and sectors. If implemented, the restrictions on electric cars would likely be temporary and would only be implemented during periods of extreme energy shortages.

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Bumpy EV markets

The electric vehicle (EV) market experienced a bumpy ride in 2021, with many startups losing significant value as interest rates rose and financial markets fluctuated.

This has led to concerns about the ability of EVs to convince mainstream consumers to make the switch from combustion engines. As a result, the industry is facing a number of challenges in the coming year, including a lack of charging infrastructure, rising battery costs and uncertainty over government subsidies.

Despite this, analysts predict that EVs could account for up to a third of the North American market by 2029, with around 26% of vehicles produced worldwide being electric by the same year.

Lack of charging stations

One key factor that will determine the success of the EV market in 2023 is the availability of charging infrastructure.

Currently, many consumers are put off from buying EVs due to concerns about the lack of charging stations, particularly in rural areas.

This makes it difficult for EV owners to plan long journeys and can lead to “range anxiety” – the fear of running out of power before reaching a charging station.

To address this issue, many governments and private companies are investing in the development of charging infrastructure. In California, for example, the state government has approved a $2.9 billion investment to double the number of car chargers in the state.

Another factor is the cost of batteries.

The price of EV batteries has been rising in recent years due to shortages of key materials and uncertainty over government subsidies. This has made EVs more expensive, which can deter potential buyers who are looking for a more affordable alternative to combustion engine cars.

Smaller, lighter batteries are coming

Many companies are working on developing new battery technologies that could make EVs more affordable. For example, some companies are researching the use of solid-state batteries, which are smaller, lighter, and more efficient than traditional lithium-ion batteries. These could potentially reduce the cost of EVs and make them more attractive to consumers.

EV Run-Down: Honda to Use VR, Switzerland Considered EV Ban, Aston Martin Goes Metaverse

Aston Martin enters the metaverse

Luxury sports car maker, Aston Martin, has partnered with game developer and publisher The Tiny Digital Factory to launch 3,000 unique digital diecasts for its cars in the metaverse-based racing game, Infinite Drive.

The three models available are the Aston Martin 2022 Vantage V8 Coupe, the Aston Martin 1980 Vantage V8 and the Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

The digital diecasts have been created through 3D modelling and hand-drawn artistry to mirror their real-world counterparts.

EV Run-Down: Honda to Use VR, Switzerland Considered EV Ban, Aston Martin Goes Metaverse
Screenshot from Aston Martin’s metaverse.

“It is both an honor and a tremendous responsibility to bring the history, legacy and artistry of Aston Martin into metaverse racing, so fans can own and forever enjoy these stunning 3D digital diecast collectibles,” said Stéphane Baudet, founder and CEO of The Tiny Digital Factory.

Owners of the digital collectibles will also have the opportunity to experience how their cars feel and sound on officially licensed tracks, including Fuji Speedway and the Nurburgring. The Tiny Digital Factory has a worldwide license to use the shape, trade dress and trademarks of Aston Martin vehicles for inclusion in the game.

Finally, Apple rumours

Apple has scaled back its plans for an electric, self-driving car, according to Bloomberg. The report suggests that Apple is now looking to create a “less ambitious” design that will include a steering wheel and pedals, and only support full autonomous capabilities on highways.

This represents a “significant shift” for the project, which had been rumored to be working on a fully autonomous car without a steering wheel or pedals.

The company is said to be aiming to sell the car for less than $100,000, down from earlier estimates of around $120,000. Apple is targeting a 2026 launch date for the car.

EV Run-Down: Honda to Use VR, Switzerland Considered EV Ban, Aston Martin Goes Metaverse
“An Apple car” as imagined by AI (Midjourney).

However, it is unclear whether Apple has found a manufacturing partner to help it produce the car. In recent years, there have been reports that the tech giant has held talks with various automakers, including Foxconn, Huyndai and Kia, but it is believed that it is still seeking a partner.

Foxconn in the running

The project is said to involve 1,000 employees split across four locations in three countries. Apple has not commented on the reports.

Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer and a key manufacturing partner for Apple, is aiming to “build clients’ EVs from the chassis up, with no plans to sell vehicles under its own brand,” according to Bloomberg. The company have unveilt several new all-EV prototypes. The company plans to use the prototypes as reference designs to demonstrate its manufacturing capabilities to potential clients.

If Foxconn is successful in its EV ambitions, it could potentially produce Apple’s long-rumored “Project Titan” electric vehicle in the future. The company already manufactures Apple’s iPhones.

Overall, the coming year is likely to be an important one for the EV markets. If the industry can overcome its current challenges and convince more consumers to make the switch to electric cars, it could pave the way for further growth.


Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.