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Vodafone Australia and TPG head to court for merger approval

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Huawei ban sees TPG end rollout of Australian mobile network
Australian telco says the lack of a clear upgrade path to 5G will see it end its network rollout.

Vodafone Australia and TPG are heading to Federal Court to seek approval for their merger, following the decision of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to oppose the deal on Wednesday.

Chief Executive of Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) Inaki Berroeta said the merger involved two companies with little overlap.

“VHA is an established mobile business with less than one per cent of the fixed broadband market, while TPG is the second largest fixed broadband player with no mobile network,” said Berroeta.

“The merger provides a unique opportunity for VHA and TPG to combine their complementary assets.”

TPG was in the midst of deploying its Australian mobile network, when it made the decision in January to abandon its mobile network build in Australia, and cop a AU$230 million accounting hit.

The company said the decision was made due to the Australian government’s ban on Huawei 5G equipment. The telco said it had purchased equipment for 1,500 sites, as well as 900 fully or partially completed small cell sites. The company has already racked up AU$100 million in costs, with a further AU$30 million to come.

Berroeta argued that the proposed AU$15 billion entity would be able to take the fight to its rivals.

See: ACCC opposes TPG and Vodafone Australia merger

“The merger would create an entity that can compete more aggressively in this highly competitive market than either VHA or TPG could on their own,” he said.

“It is disappointing that the ACCC does not see it this way.”

Vodafone added that the merger agreement with TPG has been extended to the end of August 2020 to allow for the Federal Court to make a decision, and for the merger to be completed.

Explaining its decision on Wednesday, the ACCC said the merger would reduce competition in the telco sector, and said TPG had a “commercial imperative” to deploy its own mobile network.

“TPG is the best prospect Australia has for a new mobile network operator to enter the market, and this is likely the last chance we have for stronger competition in the supply of mobile services,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“Wherever possible, market structures should be settled by the competitive process, not by a merger which results in a market structure that would be subject to little challenge in the future. This is particularly the case in concentrated sectors, such as mobile services in Australia.”

Sims noted that TPG has the fibre assets, transmission network, spectrum, and customer base to move into mobile, while Vodafone had moved into fixed broadband.

“TPG is also facing reducing margins in fixed home broadband due to the NBN rollout. Further, there is the growing take-up of mobile broadband services in place of fixed home broadband services which is expected to increase especially after the rollout of 5G technology,” Sims added.

“After thorough examination, we have concluded that, if this proposed merger does not proceed, there is a real chance TPG will roll out a mobile network.”

Related Coverage

ACCC opposes TPG and Vodafone Australia merger

Consumer watchdog rejects deal to create new telco worth AU$15 billion.

TPG is still king of NBN speed report

TPG still delivers on its download speed promises the most often, while Exetel won on upload speeds, Telstra on latency, and Optus on the highest number of daily outages, according to the fifth ACCC report.

ACMA warns TPG, Foxtel, Aussie Broadband on priority assistance

TPG, Aussie Broadband, MyRepublic, Foxtel, Activ8me, Exetel, Dodo, Skymesh, Southern Phone, Spintel, and V4 Telecom have been formally warned to provide accurate information on priority assistance services.

TPG quarterly profit drops 76 percent after Huawei ban

While the mobile network abandonment brought down TPG’s Q1 results, the telco also made less revenue thanks to the broadband market erosion caused by the NBN rollout.

Huawei ban sees TPG end rollout of Australian mobile network

Australian telco says the lack of a clear upgrade path to 5G will see it end its network rollout.

Vodafone Australia EBITDA tops AU$1b but continues to post net loss

Net loss for the company down by almost a third to AU$124 million.

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Biden EV plan “the largest mobilization of public investment” since WW2

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The US government plans to replace its fleet of vehicles with electric alternatives, part of a huge public investment in equipment that President Biden says will be the largest since World War II. The goal was announced today, as Biden discussed the Buy American Executive Order and strategies to strengthen American manufacturing and create jobs in the US.

“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles,” Biden said during the press conference, “which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, creating millions of jobs, a million autoworker jobs, and clean energy, and vehicles that are net-zero emissions. And together this will be the largest mobilization of public investment in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since World War II.”

Certainly, there’s no shortage of vehicles being used across the government’s various departments. Each year, those departments are required to submit records on owned, leased, and commercially leased vehicles in their fleets. For 2019, civilian agencies owned more than 158,000 vehicles, while military agencies owned more than 62,000 vehicles.

The biggest fleet, however, is used by the US Postal Service. In the 2019 figures, it reported owning more than 224,000 vehicles. Tallied across all the agencies, there’s more than 445,000 owned vehicles on the books, and more than 200,000 leased in some form, with total costs of around $4.4 billion.

Typically, domestic vehicles already far outweigh the use of foreign passenger vehicles and trucks in use by the US government. Indeed, of the roughly 645,000 strong fleet in 2019, only around 6-percent were foreign-made. However, should even a small percentage be replaced with electrified vehicles, that could represent a huge shift in emissions.

The current reporting does not break down the vehicles by drivetrain type – beyond a separate category for low-speed electric vehicles (LSEV) – so it’s unclear how many might already be battery-electric or hybrids.

Still, it’s only in recent years that there have been viable options for replacing mainstream vehicles with zero-emission alternatives, and even then some categories are still awaiting production EVs. Ford and Chevrolet are both preparing electric pickup trucks, as is Tesla, and several American automakers are working on electric SUVs and sedans.

Startups like Rivian and Canoo are developing both passenger cars and SUVs and electric delivery vehicles, while Ford has an e-Transit in the pipeline, an all-electric version of its best-selling van. Earlier this month, GM announced a new brand, BrightDrop, to focus on electric logistics.

“The dollars the federal government spends on goods and services are a powerful tool to support American workers and manufacturers,” the White House said today. “Contracting alone accounts for nearly $600 billion in federal spending. Federal law requires government agencies to give preferences to American firms, however, these preferences have not always been implemented consistently or effectively.”

Full details of today’s executive order are yet to be published in the Federal Register by the government.

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Arcimoto is planning a tilting electric three-wheeler and it sounds epic

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Get ready for the electric vehicle market to lean over, with Arcimoto announcing it’s acquired a tilting trike specialist to use the tech in future EV three-wheelers. Based in Oregon, Arcimoto currently offers all-electric vehicles for public and business use, with its FUV – or “Fun Utility Vehicle” – available to preorder from around $18k.

Today’s deal sees Arcimoto snap up Tilting Motor Works, which offers a leaning kit for motorcycles. Its TRiO system can adapt existing bikes, promising to keep their natural lean but adding stability with a second front wheel. It’s currently offered for Harley-Davidson, Honda, and Indian models, priced at $14k plus installation.

Now, TRiO will be used for future Arcimoto trikes. The system will allow the EVs to lean into corners for more engaging driving dynamics, as well as lock upright when at a stop. The extra front wheel aids in traction too, Tilting Motor Works says, as well as improving braking; the company will continue to offer its kits for traditional motorcycles as well.

Arcimoto’s current FUV supports two occupants, sitting one behind the other. It has a 75 mph top speed from dual electric motors, and a range of 102 miles of urban driving; the doors are detachable, and rather than a steering wheel inside there are handlebars with heated grips. Currently, the company is taking preorders in Florida and on the west coast of the US.

It’s not the only vehicle Arcimoto has in mind, however. Late in 2020, the company showed off its latest prototype, a three-wheeler it called the ROADSTER. Roofless, and with a chopped-down windshield, it promises a more traditional take on the electric trike segment.

Electric drive and three wheels is arguably where some of the most interesting experiments are taking place in mobility right now. Last month, for example, we took the ElectraMeccanica Solo EV out for a spin, a single-seat electric trike that aims to reboot commuting. Based on the fact that almost 90-percent of Americans typically drive alone, it trades cabin space and seating for much cheaper running costs.

What it doesn’t do, however, is tilt. For an example of that, you have to look to something like Toyota’s i-ROAD, a distinctive electric three-wheeler that could lean into corners according to how aggressively you steered. Offered in select locations in Japan, and part of Toyota’s aggressive electrification push for the next few years, the i-ROAD was never officially offered in the US.

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Lotus teases sports car future as Elise, Exige and Evora face the axe

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Lotus is preparing a huge shake-up, with the iconic British sports car company confirming it’s axing three of its most memorable models to pave way for an all-new line-up. 2021 will be the end of the line for the Evora, Exige, and Elise, Lotus said today, dropping a new teaser about just what is intended to take their place.

We’ve already seen one element of that plan, in the shape of the beastly Evija hypercar. Announced in mid-2019, it promised to tap electrification for its potency, something Lotus demonstrated in action at its public debut in October last year.

Not everyone will be able to afford – or even find a spot on the waiting list for – a $2m+ EV behemoth. For that audience, Lotus has confirmed a new series sports car range, with the Lotus Type 131 expected to go into prototype production later this year.

It’ll be built at the automaker’s Hethel, Norfolk facility in the UK, which will undergo a $127m+ investment and see around 250 more engineers and manufacturing recruits added to the payroll. Helping foot the bill are shareholders Geely and Etika, which took ownership of Lotus in September 2017.

You can’t accuse Lotus of not making the most of its outgoing range. The first-generation Elise made its debut all the way back in 1995, a new model for Lotus but epitomizing its ethos of reducing weight in the name of increasing engagement. Though never the most powerful sport car, it nonetheless carved out a lingering reputation across several generations for its purity behind the wheel.

The Exige, meanwhile, arrived in 2000. A coupe to the Elise’s convertible, it built on the platform with race-focused technology to maximize performance. Come 2008, the Evora gave Lotus an entrant for the super-sports sector, tempering some of the automaker’s notorious focus on paring back creature comforts with a more luxurious, GT-minded approach.

The Type 131 range – part of what Lotus is calling its Vision80 strategy – will include at least three new models, replacing the Elise, Exige, and Evora. “Our renowned team of engineers, designers and technicians who are working on the new cars are acutely aware of the legacy from the Elise, Exige and Evora,” Matt Windle, executive director of engineering at the automaker, says. “Indeed, many were around when Elise was being developed.”

Earlier in 2020, rumors suggested Lotus could reboot the classic Esprit name for a new model. The new Esprit, it was hinted, could use a hybrid V6 powertrain, combining gas and electric power, though unlike James Bond’s car it would be unlikely to turn into a submarine.

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