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Tariff truce may spare iconic US products from huge price hikes

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by Jenny Leonard from https://financialpost.com

U.S. and EU Set to Reach Temporary Tariff Truce Over Metals

Iconic American products affected by EU countertariffs include Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles, Levi Strauss & Co. jeans and bourbon whiskey. Business associations and lawmakers have asked that the U.S. lift the duties, saying they do more harm than good.

The Biden administration is set to announce it’s reached a truce in a dispute with the European Union over metal tariffs, sparing iconic products such as U.S. bourbon whiskey from a doubling of EU duties next month, people familiar with the matter said.

A resolution could be announced as soon as Monday, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

At issue is a high-profile dispute that started in 2018 under former President Donald Trump, in which the U.S. imposed duties on steel and aluminum from Europe, Asia and elsewhere over risks to American national security. The EU has since retaliated and on June 1 was set to double tariffs on a list of American products to 50%.

Under the agreement with the Biden administration, the EU will refrain from increasing those tariffs and both sides will engage in a dialog on steel overcapacity, according to the people.

The European Union had previously proposed to suspend all duties on each other’s products for six months while negotiations on a long-term solution continue.

“We can only reiterate that the EU remains committed to finding a solution with the U.S. to the unduly justified tariffs on steel and aluminium and to working with the U.S. in tackling the root cause of the problem, which is the global steel overcapacity,” a spokesperson for the European Commission said on Saturday.

Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic are working to eventually remove the tariffs but are not yet ready to do so, the people said.

Spokespeople for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Commerce Department didn’t respond to requests for comment.

President Joe Biden will participate in a U.S.-EU summit in Brussels next month during his first foreign trip as the nation’s leader. Biden and his European counterparts are set to discuss trade cooperation, the White House said.

Trump imposed the 25% steel tariff, along with a 10% duty on aluminum imports, in March 2018, using an arcane national-security provision in a 1962 trade law to justify the move. Some countries, including Brazil and South Korea, negotiated deals to avoid the tariff, and Trump dropped the duty for imports from Canada and Mexico. But the tariffs still apply for much of world.

The tariffs in place “have already exacted a heavy toll from U.S. businesses and the workers they employ,” John Murphy, the senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement Friday. He noted an almost 40% drop in U.S. spirits exports to the EU since the duties came into place.

In a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai defended Trump’s metals tariffs. They “have really roiled our economy, but were necessary to address a global overcapacity problem driven largely but not solely by China,” she said.

The U.S. has achieved its goal of blocking subsidized Chinese steel from the American market through other tools such as anti-dumping and countervailing duties, Murphy said. Separate tariffs imposed via section 301 of the Trade Act, under which Beijing’s practices were deemed unfair, have also deterred shipments, he said.

Chinese steel imports now account for less than 1% of U.S. steel consumption, Murphy said.

Chinese Copycat Motrac Unicorn 800 thinks it’s an MV Agusta Superveloce

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by Pradeep Shah from https://www.financialexpress.com

China does it again! The home country of Covid-19 is now in the news headlines for one more shameful reason and that is copycat bikes. Here is one more example!

Chinese are very well known for copying designs of some highly respected products and coming out with cheap clones. Auto manufacturers in China have been doing this for years now and very recently, we have come across one more example. This time around, the very gorgeous-looking MV Agusta Superveloce 800 falls prey to this copycat treatment in China. The clone bike is better known as the Motrac Unicorn 800. The Hong Kong-based brand also had the guts to showcase this bike publically at this year’s Chongqing Auto Show in China. Starting with the front section, the bike gets the same circular headlamp as the Superveloce and the front fairing looks quite similar too, however, it fails to make a mark because well, a copy is always a copy.

As you proceed towards the rear, things start to turn ugly as the bike gets a quite regular box-section swingarm compared to the single-sided unit that further adds to the enchanting visuals of the MV Agusta Superveloce. The dual exhausts on the right look no less than an eyesore as well and the rounded rear tail lamp mimics the rear end of the Agusta, however, this again fails to look half as pleasing and doesn’t gel well with the overall design. Speaking of the cycle parts, the bike gets 17-inch wheels at both ends paired with a 140-section front and chunky 200-section rear tyres. The Motrac Unicorn 800 gets its stopping duties done with the help of twin 320mm discs upfront along with a single 300mm disc unit at the rear, coupled to a standard dual-channel ABS.

Powering the Motrac Unicorn 800, as the name suggests, is an 800cc twin-cylinder engine that is good for developing 60 hp of power along with 70 Nm of torque. In comparison, the original Italian beauty draws power from a 798cc, three-cylinder motor that churns out 146 hp of power while the peak torque output is rated at 88 Nm. That said, the performance of the MV is something that its Chinese clone can only dream of.

Delfast Bikes to break away from production in China

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by Cristian Curmei from https://www.autoevolution.com

Delfast Bikes Does the Unthinkable and Starts Breaking Away From PRC Production

There’s no doubt that e-bikes are what booming in the urban mobility game. One company carrying the torch and leading the way for e-bikes is Delfast Bikes.

It’s possible you’ve heard of Delfast Bike by now. In case you haven’t, know that this is one of the e-bike manufacturers you should be keeping an eye on. Between 2014 and 2017, this company was hard at work delivering a different sort of product, parcels or packages, but behind closed curtains, Delfast was hard at work developing their own machine able to withstand the treacherous roads of Kyiv, Ukraine.

In 2016, this company began selling its first e-bike, and just a year later, in 2017, set a Guiness World Record for the longest e-bike ride on a single battery charge, 367 km (228 mi). How? Well, I mentioned the team had been working on something behind closed curtains, mainly, it was a battery management system.

Let’s face it, the e-bikes this team creates have way more to do than just simple battery management. Another aspect of design that Delfast seems to be partaking in, is that of creating an overall rugged and capable bike. How rugged? If you’ve been following along with autoevolution, you’d know that even the Mexicali Police are now using products from Delfast to monitor crime. Imagine seeing police officers silently chasing down fugitives. The days of horseback riding are over.

Recently, this EV company ran a $3,000,000 crowdfunding campaign to help expand and ease company operations. Now, anytime a company asks investors to throw in some cash, you’d better be sure they deliver. Such a doubt has no place if we’re to be talking about Delfast. By the end of the campaign, this team had raised $400,000 more than they initial sum aimed for.

“We are delighted to raise such a record amount in three months. This funding will take us one step closer to our goal to build an industry-leading e-bike manufacture and support a climate-safe transportation community around the globe,” said Daniel Tonkopiy, co-Founder and CEO.

But why was this campaign needed in the first place? I thought you’d never ask. Think if it this way. Before this crew launched the campaign, they already had $100 million in pre-orders. $100 million! Give the people $3,000,000! I wonder what the investor portfolios are looking like.

With the newfound cash, Delfast has invested in a production center in their own backyard and not in the current PRC. It looks like, slowly but surely, this team wants to transfer their e-bike production out of China, something a lot of e-bike companies see as out of the question.

A few days ago, the e-bike manufacturer released an announcement stating they’ve signed an agreement with Kyiv-based tech company ELMIZ. If you’ve never heard of ELMIZ, not to worry, your future Delfast e-bike will be assembled with the help of a company that has been specializing in the production of space docking systems, laser navigation and radio communication systems, and even automated devices for space vehicles. And that’s just a part of the story, ELMIZ also produces charging stations for electric cars, mining equipment, and porous cast aluminum for mechanical engineering, not to mention lighting systems.

“The factory has a wide experience in producing complex electronics, space systems and charging stations for electric vehicles. Considering its resources, expertise and qualified engineers, we can be sure that our e-bikes will be produced in a high quality and in accordance with our requirements,” says Tonkopiy about the agreement.

Currently, the new facility will be able to manufacture five e-bikes per month, while the goal is to increase production to 50 units per month by the end of 2021. One major benefit that Delfast customers can now look forward to is an increased production capacity, meaning you’ll get your bike sooner than anticipated; shorter delivery times for U.S. and E.U. clients by up to three weeks.

In my opinion, keep your eyes peeled as this company is setting a new standard for how an e-bike should perform. If you feel you’ve missed out on the investment opportunities this company has offered in the past, don’t. They are on a clear growing curve and even now is a good time to hop on the fastest e-bike for 2021 according to Forbes.

Right now, an Earth Day campaign is running on the manufacturers website that drops $1,556 off the 3.0’s starting price of $6649. So, you can get the freshest menace form this team for $5,256. Honestly, for that price, you’re buying an electric motorcycle that just happens to include a pedal-assist function.

 

Sacrificing Good American Nuclear Jobs For Cheap Chinese Solar Panels

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by Michael Shellenberger

Democrats Must Stop Sacrificing Good American Nuclear Jobs For Cheap Chinese Solar Panels

China made solar panels cheap through coerced labor, not innovation.

The Biden Administration is promoting the participation of Chinese President Xi Jinping in a White House climate summit at a time when Congress is considering whether or not to halt the import of solar panels from China for human rights reasons.

“China’s Solar Dominance Presents Biden With an Ugly Dilemma,” read the headline of a New York Times article published yesterday. “President Biden’s vow to work with China on issues like climate change is clashing with his promise to defend human rights.”

The U.S. State Department in January 2021 called the Chinese government treatment of the Uyghurs “genocide.” The State Department says one million Uyghurs have been forced into concentration camps in Xinjiang province, or forced to work in factories, including ones that make solar panels, one of the region’s largest industries. “Shinta energy, East Hope Group, and GCL Poly-Energy Holdings have all been linked to a state-run employment program that,” reported Bloomberg earlier this week, “at times amount to forced labor.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington called claims of forced labor in Xinjiang “a rumor created by a few anti-China media and organizations,” and insisted that all workers in Xinjiang freely enter into contracts without coercion. “There is no such thing as ‘forced labor,’” insisted an Embassy representative.

But Secretary of State Antony Blinken doubled-down on the genocide label in a statement last week, saying that the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang constituted “an effort to commit genocide.” And the U.S., Canada, and the European Union have already already banned imports of cotton and tomatoes and, according to Bloomberg, “The substance needed for solar panels could be next.”

For years, renewable energy advocates had claimed that radical cost declines of solar panels would come from improved efficiency in the conversion of sunlight into electricity. But it’s today clear that “the China price” stemmed in some measure from the coerced labor of Uyghur Muslims. “Xinjiang is known for low safety and environmental standards,” noted the Times. Forced labor “may be just part of the incentive package,” said a solar executive.

Even the best performing models of the most common types of solar panels only saw their efficiency rise by 2-3 percentage points over the last decade. As such, it is impossible that efficiency increases accounted for the two-thirds decline in the cost of solar panels over the same period.

Solar panel makers have in recent weeks sought to reassure lawmakers and journalists that they will quickly and easily relocate their facilities out of Xinjiang to somewhere else in China, and thus that there is no need for the White House and Congress to ban the importation of their panels. Over 200 solar companies so far have signed a pledge to relocate from the region. “Our understanding is that all the major suppliers are going to be able to supply assurances to their customers that their products coming into the U.S. do not include polysilicon from the region,” said a solar industry spokesperson.

But supply assurances is very different from supplying solar panels assured to be free of coerced labor. And even moving some factories out of Xianjiang would not address the genocide, noted The Times. “Some Chinese companies have responded by reshuffling their supply chains, funneling polysilicon and other solar products they manufacture outside Xinjiang to American buyers, and then directing their Xinjiang-made products to China and other markets.”

But solar panel making is a heavy industry which could take years to relocate. Factories would need to be located near to where its core material, polysilicon, is made. And relocating tens of thousands of workers, not just equipment in buildings, as well as the housing and infrastructure they all require, would require enormous social disruption. Proof of this comes from the difficulty experienced by clothing and footwear companies to relocate from Xianjiang for the same reasons.

And there is no independent way of confirming that manufacturers have shifted production to regions free of genocide and persecution, since there is no free and independent monitoring of the Chinese solar panel makers. Earlier this week Bloomberg Quicktake aired a special investigation, “Why Secrecy Haunts China’s Solar Factories in Xinjiang.”

Bloomberg quoted a Chinese government saying his government welcomed media investigations. “We welcome foreign media to visit and to see with their own eyes the achievements there. We also call on media outlets that are committed to objective and not biased reporting as well as professional ethics to tell the true story.”

But when two Bloomberg reporters attempted to do so they were followed by Chinese secret police and rebuffed by understandably fearful solar panel workers. “We’re told, on the one hand, ‘Come visit. We want journalists to come.’ But the reality is just so starkly different,” one of the Bloomberg reporters said. The solar panel workers, he said, “had obviously been well-trained by the company to respond, should somebody from the outside, whether it be a journalist or a diplomat, ask them questions about what’s going on in the factory.”

Another difficulty will be the higher cost of energy outside of the region. “Xinjiang has a lot of relatively cheap coal,” said another Bloomberg analyst. “And cheap energy means cheap polysilicon,” the main feedstock for solar panels.

But even if the Uyghur Muslim workers, their housing, and the solar panel factories were relocated, China’s genocide against them would continue. “Episodes of forced labor have also been reported in Chinese facilities outside Xinjiang,” noted the Times, “where Uyghurs and other minorities have been transferred to work.”

The issue, in the end, is not producing solar panels in the region of Xinjiang. The issue is China’s genocide against, and the use of the coerced labor of Uyghur Muslims, which could continue anywhere in China.

Democrats Opt for Chinese Solar Over American Nuclear

The Democrats’ climate infrastructure legislation in Congress proposes a national Clean Energy Standard, which would require electricity providers to generate 80% of their power from zero-emissions resources by 2030 and 100% by 2035. That Standard appears to include nuclear and, theoretically, should help nuclear plants on the verge of being closed and replaced by natural gas and renewables.

But the broader legislation, and President Biden’s proposed budget, would heavily subsidize solar and wind, including its enabling infrastructure, but not nuclear plants. As such, the combined impact of the legislation could be to accelerate the premature closure of nuclear plants around the U.S.

To a significant extent this is already happening. In Congress and across the U.S., Democratic lawmakers are advocating and overseeing the closure of nuclear power plants, and their replacement with both China-made solar panels and natural gas, in California and New York, and will do so in Illinois, if legislators fail to act to save the nuclear plants scheduled to prematurely close later this year.

Sitting Democratic governors have used behind-the-scenes efforts, including ones that involved illegal donations from natural gas firms, to pressure nuclear plants to close prematurely, as well as state mandates and credit programs, similar to the ones Democrats are proposing in their climate change and infrastructure legislation.

In 2019, U.S. Congressional Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,”but a few months later advocated the closure of Indian Point nuclear plant, which at the time provided carbon-free electricity for roughly three million New Yorkers.

Ocasio-Cortez got her wish and Indian Point is in the process of being shut down and being replaced by fossil fuels, as well solar panels. “After one of Indian Point’s two working reactors was permanently shut down last summer,” reported the Times last week, “the share of the state’s power that came from gas-fired generators jumped in 2020 to about 40 percent, from about 36 percent in 2019, federal data show.” Emissions are likely to rise further after the second reactor is closed in a few weeks.

In California, even anti-nuclear advocates today acknowledge that emissions are likely to rise if Governor Gavin Newsom of California follows through on his promise to close Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in 2024 and 2025. Last summer, California lacked sufficient electricity by roughly the same amount as had been provided by the nuclear power plant that California’s Democratic leaders forced to close prematurely in 2013.

Democratic elected officials have said that solar and wind can replace the lost nuclear, but the Timesnoted that “each of Indian Point’s reactors had been producing more power than all of the wind turbines and solar panels in the state combined.”

The same problem has afflicted California. “People wonder how we made it through the heat wave of 2006,” said the CEO of California’s electricity grid operator.. “The answer is that there was a lot more generating capacity in 2006 than in 2020…. We had San Onofre [nuclear plant] of 2,200 megawatts and a number of other plants totalling thousands of megawatts not there today.”

With nuclear plants generating nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity, and solar and wind just half of that, the Democrats’ legislation could ultimately raise rather than lower emissions by continuing to eliminate emission-free nuclear power generation that solar and wind cannot adequately replace.

Why Biden Must Opt for American Nuclear Over Chinese Solar

China decides its energy policy based on politics internal to the Politburo, and various industry lobbies, and is simply using the issue of climate change to manipulate the West, say some experts. “Xi’s bullish talk of combating climate change is a smokescreen for a more calculated agenda,” wrote two experts at the U.S. Naval War College and Rice University in Foreign Affairs.

“Chinese policymakers know their country is critical to any comprehensive international effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and they are trying to use that leverage to advance Chinese interests in other areas.”

Neither China nor Russia are sincere in their promises, agreed the vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “What is striking to me,” she said, “is that while both Beijing and Moscow are speaking the language of climate change before international audiences, at home, they are putting their foot on the accelerator to increase global carbon emissions.” She pointed to Russia’s exports of natural gas to Germany and much of Europe, and of China’s increasing reliance on coal plants to make low-cost products like solar panels.

The climate summit with Xi, closing nuclear power plants, and refusing to apply the same standard to solar panels as governments have applied to tomatoes and shoes, are a bad look for Biden and the Democrats.

It’s not too late for action. Republicans in Congress introduced a bill that would ban the import of Chinese-made solar panels into the U.S. But Democrats have not cosponsored it.

Some know better. Moderate Democrats like Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania recognized after the 2020 election that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s anti-nuclear “Green New Deal” made the party look extreme. He should see that Democrats including President Biden are at risk of appearing to value Chinese solar jobs over American nuclear ones.

The people closest to the issue express the most fear and anger over what is happening to minorities in China. The researcher who broke the story of coerced Uyghur labor being used to make solar panels unequivocally condemned those who continue to buy Chinese solar panels today. “I would say you are complicit in perpetuating this Chinese industrial policy that suppresses and disenfranchises human beings.”

The replacement of good nuclear jobs with Chinese solar panels will be felt in working-class communities. Nuclear power plants can run for 80 years or more and sometimes employ three generations of families who earn comparatively high wages, thanks to the high-tech nature of atomic energy.

Such will be the case in New York. The Indian Point closure will also deprive the local community of $32 million in annual contributions from the plant’s operator including $24 million that went directly to schools.

Also lost will be 1,000 good, high-paying jobs. By contrast, the largest new solar farm in the U.S. will create just six permanent jobs.

Planned Electric Motorcycle from Segway

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by Florina Spînu from https://www.autoevolution.com

Hydrogen-Fueled Segway Apex H2 Makes a Stunning Appearance, Production Possible

Looking straight out of the “Tron” movie, a new electric motorcycle called Apex H2, a two-wheeler packed with neon lights and powered by hydrogen fuel cells, was shown this week by Segway’s Chinese parent company Ninebot.

Presented as a continuation of the Segway Apex that was presented a while back, the Chinese company hopes to turn the H2 into a unique product in a few years’ time.

So, what are the features of Apex H2?

First, we have a redesigned frame compared to what we were already shown, only it adds hydrogen power to the mix. More to the point, the bike should get its juice from hydrogen cylinders, which will probably be swappable and refillable. For now, not many details on these are available, given how the product is still in its early stages.

According to Ninebot, the Apex H2 will have a power output of 80 hp, and it should reachh 100 kph (62 mph) in four seconds. Additionally, the motorcycle will have a top speed of 150 kph (93 mph).

Said to be priced at approximately $10,700, the innovative motorcycle is not exactly a low-cost two-wheeled vehicle. However, considering what it promises to put on the table, it could become a strong competitor on the market. This new hybrid motorcycle is scheduled to come out in 2023.

Even though the Segway Apex is still some years away, Segway’s legacy lives on. Its latest products are e-scooters, hoverboards, and other devices that act as an extension of the human body. The company presented in 2020 the Segway S-Pod, a self-balancing chair for urban transport operated by an intuitive assistive navigation panel. It is also developing electric ATVs and dirt e-bikes.

In 2015 Segway was purchased by the Chinese competitor Ninebot, a company that raised no less than $80 million from investors like Xiaomi.

China-made Brixton 1200 cleared for production

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by Pradeep Shah from https://www.financialexpress.com

China-made Brixton 1200 cleared for production: 1200cc modern classic has Bonneville T120 in its sights!

About the new 1200cc model, Brixton says that it “shows the way of Brixton Motorcycles into even higher capacity classes and proves the development competence of our brand.”

Brixton 1200 – a 1200cc modern classic has been cleared to enter production as per a report on Bennetts. The modern classic will lock horns against the likes of the Triumph Bonneville T120 in the segment. Showcased as a concept at 2019 EICMA motorcycle show, the said model will be made in China. However, Brixton comes under the KSR Group from Austria that is responsible for importing motorcycles from multiple Chinese manufacturers. The design and engineering part for the Brixton 1200 has been taken care of at KSR’s design center that is located in Krups, Austria. The Brixton will most likely draw power from a 1200cc, parallel-twin engine that will put itself very much in the Bonneville T120 territory. In terms of aesthetics, the Brixton 1200 looks like a proper modern classic with an all-LED rounded headlamp upfront, wired wheels, all-black theme and touches of chrome just at the right places.

About the new 1200cc model, Brixton says that it “shows the way of Brixton Motorcycles into even higher capacity classes and proves the development competence of our brand.” As of now, the exact timeline for the production of Brixton 1200 isn’t clear and the company says that it wants to create a technically mature vehicle without time pressure, a vehicle that meets more than just the high-quality requirements in these cubic capacity classes.

Apart from showcasing the Brixton 1200, the company launched Crossfire 500 and Crossfire 500X last year. The two get power from a 486 cc, parallel-twin motor good for churning out 47 bhp of power. The said models entered production soon after they were showcased as concepts and the same can be expected from the Brixton 1200 as well. More details on the Brixton 1200 expected soon, so stay tuned for all the updates!

Also, will the Brixton 1200 be able to give a tough fight to the Triumph Bonneville 120?

Aprilia Terra 250 adventure motorcycle spied in China

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by Abhinand Venugopal from https://www.rushlane.com

Aprilia’s new Terra 250 adventure motorcycle is powered by the same power plant in CFMoto’s 250NK

Italian two-wheeler brand, Aprilia is apparently working on a new adventure (or dual-sport) motorcycle in the 250cc category, for the Chinese market. It was recently spied at Zongshen Aprilia’s manufacturing facility in a market-ready format. Zongshen Aprilia is the Italian automaker’s Chinese counterpart.

Aprilia already sells the Terra 150 in China. The 150cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder motorcycle (which originally made its debut in a 125cc avatar) is relatively expensive and has not been able to perform well on monthly sales charts. Zongshen Aprilia aims to change this story with its new Terra 250. The motorcycle could be introduced in other Asian markets in phases but it is too early to make any conclusions.

The Aprilia Terra 250 is based on a split-cradle chassis frame with a box-section swingarm and a tubular handlebar. To aid off-roading characteristics, it gets 18-inch front and 17-inch rear spoke wheels with knobby tyres. Reports state that this is the standard version and a more capable ‘Adventure’ variant could be introduced alongside (with longer suspension travel and 21-inch wheels at the front).

At the moment, a lot of details about the motorcycle remain unknown. However, it shares its power plant with the CFMoto 250NK which could be launched in India soon. The 249.2cc liquid-cooled DOHC single-cylinder engine makes around 26bhp @ 9,000rpm and 22Nm @ 7,500rpm. This is mated to a 6-speed gearbox via a slipper clutch. The CFMoto 250NK can hit a top speed of 140km/h.

The Aprilia GPR 250, which was introduced in China last year, is also powered by the same engine. In the Aprilia Terra 250, the output characteristics could be slightly tuned to suit its touring or off-roading trait. The Terra 250 is a potential product for Aprilia India considering the country’s growing interest in adventure-tourers and low-capacity off-roaders. If launched, it will directly lock horns with KTM India’s upcoming 250 Adventure while also being an interesting alternative to Royal Enfield’s Himalayan and Hero MotoCorp’s Xpulse 200.

However, Aprilia India had previously disappointed Indian motorcycle enthusiasts by stepping away from introducing the RS 150 and Tuono 150. The motorcycles were first showcased in India back at Auto Expo 2018. At the time, the Aprilia RS 150 seemed to be a compelling alternative to Yamaha Motor India’s YZF-R15 V2.0 (now YZF-R15 V3.0). If the Aprilia Tuono 150 was introduced by now, it could have been a strong rival to the Yamaha MT-15.

Motorcycle racing in Asia is growing at unrivaled pace

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by Renato Marques from https://macaudailytimes.com.mo

The first-ever person of Portuguese nationality to hold the position, Jorge Viegas has served as president of the global governing and sanctioning body of motorcycle racing, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), for just over a year now.

In an exclusive interview with the Times last week, Viegas shared his opinions on the development of the sport in Asia and worldwide, speaking also about the ambitions of his presidency. He also offered some advice to Macau motorcycling event organizers, while stressing again that his organization has no jurisdiction over the annual event, part of the Macau Grand Prix.

After one year at the helm of the FIM, Viegas remarked on his success in making the organization more democratic and more transparent. He also claimed victory in his goal to give more importance to the constituent FIM committees, which he said had been “totally left out of decisions” in the past.

“I am very pleased that I [accomplished] a small ‘revolution’ at the FIM at the internal level,” he said. “That was one of my goals and it was achieved.”

Opening the FIM to the world had debunked the impression that the FIM was just “a bunch of old guys that liked to travel.”
“I have been opening the doors of the FIM to the outside and have started to collaborate a lot more with the promoters. Next month, we will, for the first time, host a plenary meeting with all the committees with the presence of journalists. This has never happened before. I want to show what the FIM does.”

“One of the first measures I took was to hold a press conference that took place at Losail during Qatar GP last year, in which I presented everyone from the FIM side that works in a Grand Prix, asking them to explain who they are and what their job duties are.”
“Without going into too much detail, I would say that I managed to bring the FIM closer to the national federations,” said Viegas.
Coming up, more reform is expected, especially in the categories of “Superbikes” and “Endurance”. The president promised that new measures to improve these categories will be announced soon, even as early as this year.

His ultimate goal remains greater engagement of the youth in motorcycle racing, all while ensuring the safety of the sport. Building on his mandate, Viegas reiterated that “every youngster, independent of gender and financial capacity, if they have the talent, passion, and motivation, [ought to be able to] compete in motorcycle racing.” At the same time, the sport must be “as safe as possible,” because only in this way can we “convince parents to let the youth participate in the sport.”

‘Unrivaled’ growth in Asia

For Viegas, “the development of motorcycling in Asia is unrivaled worldwide.”

The Asian continent is the fastest-growing region of the world when it comes to motorcycle racing, and yet its popularity is still far from peaking, he said. The FIM president recalled how the organization began with 16 national and regional federations across Asia. Today, that number has almost doubled, with 28 already accounted for and another three joining the FIM soon.

This trend is perhaps unsurprising given that, in the words of Viegas, “Asia is the most popular continent for motorcycles and where the most are circulating in the streets.”

The president is also impressed with how upbeat everyone in Asia is about the sport.

Addressing the inclusion of a new race in the MotoGP to be held on the island of Lombok, Indonesia in March 2021, Viegas remarked, “the works to build this circuit have just started and [the promoters] have already sold about 30,000 seats for the event.”
The sport is also popular elsewhere in Asia, where circuit racing championships are well-entrenched, according to the FIM president.
However, the continent suffers from a major drawback: its size. As a large and diverse continent, Asia presents a challenge in high traveling costs.

“For example, a rider going racing from China to Japan faces very high expenses,” offered Viegas, referring to transportation and logistics costs. For this reason, FIM tries to financially support the Asian Federation, so that it is possible to maintain competitive championships.

Return to China only a ‘matter of time’

Notably absent from the countries hosting major motorcycle racing events is China, leading some to speculate about disagreement between the organizers and the Chinese government. Viegas was quick to dismiss the idea of any ill feeling between the FIM, the promoters and the Chinese government.

“There is no problem with China,” he told the Times. “I believe that if they want to host an event, they can do it.”

Although there is currently no circuit in China homologated to the standards of hosting any major competitions, “if they want to, they can do that easily,” said Viegas. “It is just a matter of will and making a few works on the [existing] circuits or even building a new one.”

“I was with the Chinese authorities a few months ago and they told me that they wanted to have MotoGP back in China,” he continued. This comes as China has been pursuing other kinds of motorcycle racing categories, such as Motocross. The debut of the FIM Motocross World Championship took place in Shanghai last year, and is set to return this year.

But a return of the MotoGP is not likely within the next few years, according to the FIM president.

“We have a lot more demand than we can satisfy,” explained Viegas. “There are a lot of countries wanting to host MotoGP. This year we already expanded the championship to 20 races, and in upcoming years we can likely grow to [a maximum of] 22, which is enormous.”

Macau Grand Prix needs to review safety

Although the FIM has no jurisdiction over the motorcycle race held during the Macau Grand Prix event, the Times solicited Viegas’s views and insights on the race.

The FIM veteran, who served a number of roles at the organization prior to becoming its president, immediately suggested two logistical improvements that local organizers could adopt.

“There is one thing that the organizers can do to improve the race, which is not running motorcycle events after car events,” he said, highlighting that after a series of car races, track surface conditions may not be ideal. He also mentioned that the light and visibility conditions late in the afternoon can also be challenging for racers and present added logistical complications with race restarts.

“I think this is the minimum that organizers could do because this will improve a lot of the conditions,” said Viegas.

On a more positive note, the FIM president remarked on the “good choices” made by local organizers in “bringing in riders with a lot of experience and progressively investing in the active safety systems.”

“In the future, we hope the riders will all wear racing suits with an airbag system incorporated as well as FIM homologated helmets,” said Viegas, adding that these additional safety features have been designed to minimize the risk to racers.

For the president of FIM, the only safety issue with the Guia Circuit is the lack of run-off areas.

“The problem of Macau [street circuit] is very simple; there are no run-off areas, that’s all. There are no other problems. This is a circuit designed to host car races, the motorcycles are a complementary race that the spectators enjoy. I just think we should do all that is possible to increase the safety of the event,” he said.

A solution commonly used by the FIM on permanent racing circuits that do not possess enough run-off space is so-called “air fences”- soft-wall safety barriers, which are inflated to cushion impact from riders on otherwise rigid structures.

“When we cannot have run-off areas with the length we need, the circuit must install an air fence and we have seen riders reaching them even in areas with a lot of space,” he explained.

“Here in Macau, it would be needed obviously but again, we are not the entity that controls the safety conditions in Macau. What I wish is that there will be no more serious incidents here.”

Several recent incidents in the motorcycle racing component of the Macau Grand Prix have raised safety concerns once again among race organizers and the general population of the city. In 2017, motorcyclist Daniel Hegarty died in a crash at the Fisherman’s Bend after losing control of his bike. A major crash last year left three riders hospitalized and saw the race red flagged.

“We understand that there are riders specialized in this type of race [road racing] and they are highly experienced as well as highly aware of the risks they are taking. But what I can say is that it’s not this kind of race that the FIM encourages,” Viegas said. “This is not a circuit homologated by the FIM and it can never be, because it cannot fully meet optimal safety conditions.”

Nevertheless, the official recognizes that events like the Macau Grand Prix and the Isle of Manx TT have a long tradition with some races going back to over a century.

“It’s not under FIM competences to say anything against them,” he said. “As for the [Macau] race, it’s great entertainment and the people love it and the riders love it too.”

The global energy problem

Globally, another major challenge is the need to follow the world trend in “energy transition,” according to Viegas, which will necessitate swapping petrol-powered engines to electricity-powered motors.

“This is something that concerns us and that we are working on together with the promoters and manufacturers,” Viegas said, explaining that on motorcycles this swap will be more difficult than on cars as the current batteries are very heavy and very big, making the batteries appropriate for a racing motorcycle not capable of managing great distances.

For the time being, the Moto-E category part of the complementary program of MotoGP in some European circuits only can feature six-lap racing events.

“But as we know, this technology is developing very fast. When the batteries can be of a longer range and become lighter, I am sure we will see some great leaps forward.”

China’s Ninebot unveils scooters that drive themselves to charging stations

By General Posts

Ninebot said Uber and Lyft, the ride-hailing giants that are expanding into scooter-sharing, would be among the customers for the new semi-autonomous vehicles that are expected to hit roads early next year.

BEIJING/HONG KONG – Segway-Ninebot Group, a Beijing-based electric scooter maker, on Friday unveiled a scooter that can return itself to charging stations without a driver, a potential boon for the burgeoning scooter-sharing industry.

Ninebot said Uber and Lyft, the ride-hailing giants that are expanding into scooter-sharing, would be among the customers for the new semi-autonomous vehicles that are expected to hit roads early next year.

Gao Lufeng, Ninebot chairman and chief executive, told Reuters in an interview that AI-driven scooters, controlled remotely from the cloud, could radically improve the economics of scooter-sharing.

“The pain point for scooter operators is to better maintain the scooters at a lower cost,” he said. Currently, operators of scooter sharing fleets have to collect the machines manually for re-charging.

Formed by the 2015 combination of China’s Ninebot and U.S. transportation pioneer Segway, the company has quietly become the largest supplier for scooter-sharing companies such as Bird and Lime

“I believe scooters will replace bicycles as the prime solution for micro-mobility,” Gao said. “It’s human nature to save energy when commuting.”

The scooter-sharing fad was triggered two years ago with the launch of Bird in California. Venture-capital investors have since poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the sector, and fleets of electric-powered scooters now operate in cities across the U.S. and Europe.

Segway-Ninebot Group has applied to list its shares on the China’s new Nasdaq-style board for homegrown tech firms, the STAR Market. The company sold 1.6 million scooters in 2018, according to a prospectus filed in April.

Lyft and Uber did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

The new scooters will be priced at close to 10,000 yuan ($1,420), more than the company’s traditional scooters, which it sells to scooter companies for $100-$300.

The new machines will start road testing next month and will be largely commercialized in the first quarter of 2020.

The company also launched two self-driving delivery robots — one for outdoor delivery, the other for indoor services.

Ninebot said the unmanned delivery robots will initially serve the food delivery industry in China.

The company is in talks with food delivery operators, including Meituan Dianping and Alibaba Group’s Ele.me, to begin service by the first half of next year.

Chinese driver gets ticket for scratching his face

By General Posts

A man in eastern China received a fine after a traffic camera using artificial intelligence captured him scratching his face, it’s reported.

According to the Jilu Evening Post, the male motorist surnamed Liu was driving on Monday in Jinan, eastern Shandong province, and had raised his hand to scratch his face while passing a traffic camera.

The next thing he knew, he’d received a notification instructing him that he had violated the laws of the road for “driving while holding a phone”. A surveillance picture of his “offence” was attached.

He was told that he would receive two points on his licence and was also ordered to pay a 50 yuan (£5.70; $7.25) fine.

“I often see people online exposed for driving and touching [others’] legs,” he said on the popular Sina Weibo microblog,” “but this morning, for touching my face, I was also snapped ‘breaking the rules’!”

He shared the surveillance picture of himself that he had been sent, and said that he was going to go the authorities to try to sort the situation, after “no one would help him” over the phone.

The Global Times newspaper says that the city’s traffic authority have now cancelled his ticket, and told him that “the traffic surveillance system automatically identifies a driver’s motion and then takes a photo”, which is why his face-scratching had been mistaken for him taking a phone call.

While many online are amused by his case joking that the positioning of his hand signalled he certainly appeared to be on an “invisible” phone, some are also voicing their concerns about the level of surveillance placed on them.

“This is quite embarrassing,” says one, “that monitored people have no privacy.”

“Chinese people’s privacy – is that not an important issue?” another asks.

There are more than 170 million surveillance cameras and the country has plans to install a further 400 million by 2020.

Many are fitted with artificial intelligence including facial recognition technology, and whereas some can read simple faces, others can estimate age, ethnicity and gender.