Posts with «sectors & industries» label

VW is getting into the EV battery business

With supply chains still in disarray and the war in Ukraine wreaking havoc on EV battery component commodity prices, many forward-thinking automakers are scrambling to secure not only stocks of the valuable metals like cobalt, lithium and nickel that go into EV batteries, but also the means of of building the batteries themselves. On Thursday, Volkswagen Group held a groundbreaking at the site of its forthcoming EV battery cell plant in Salzgitter Germany and announced the formation of a new company, PowerCo, which will be responsible for handling the VW Group's burgeoning battery business. 

"Today is a good day for the automotive industry in Germany and Europe," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during the event. "Volkswagen is showing how the future of sustainable, climate-compatible mobility could look. Together, we are laying the foundation for shaping this future to a significant extent in Salzgitter."

PowerCo will handle the Group's global battery activities, from producing the batteries themselves to conducting R&D on new battery technologies to "products such as major storage systems for the energy grid," per the announcement. Once the Salzgitter plant is operational, PowerCo will begin work on a second factory in Valencia, Spain with an eye on three further cell factories in Europe and potentially North America as well. Each of the European factories will reportedly operate using 100 percent renewable energy. In all, PowerCo aims to open a total of six battery factories in Europe producing a total of 240 GWh capacity every year (~6 million electric vehicles worth).

Stefan Warter

Operations across the various production facilities will be highly standardized. Everything from "equipment, buildings and infrastructure" to "products, processes and IT" will conform so that the entire production process can be more readily adapted to future "product and production innovations," per the release.

(c) Sebastian Dorbrietz

The Salzgitter plant is expected to create 5,000 new jobs when it begins operations in 2025 with an annual capacity of 40 GWh (~500,000 electric vehicles worth). Some 20,000 positions are will need to be filled once the other European factories open, Daniela Cavallo, Chairwoman of the General and Group Works Council of Volkswagen AG, said. 

Toyota runs out of federal EV tax credits, pushing prices higher

Toyota is the latest automaker to run out of US federal tax credits and it will join Tesla and GM in losing access to the $7,500 subsidy. The company surpassed the qualifying sales threshold for EVs and hybrids in June, as Bloomberg reports.

The government limited each carmaker to 200,000 EV tax credits, though Toyota and other companies have been lobbying for that cap to be lifted. Toyota says losing the credit will mean its EVs are more expensive for consumers, which will slow the transition away from combustion-engine cars to EVs.

However, Toyota and Tesla have pushed back on a Biden administration plan to grant extra credits to unionized carmakers. GM, Ford and Stellantis (the parent of Fiat and Chrysler) have unionized plants. The Build Back Better Act, which passed through the House but stalled in the Senate, also included extra credits for cars made entirely in the US.

As things stand, Toyota's tax credits will be phased out gradually over a one-year period. Bloomberg notes that the value of the subsidy will be halved twice before it expires. However, Toyota will still be able to take advantage of incentives at the state level.

We’re heading for a messy, and expensive, breakup with natural gas

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated a number of fault lines already present within the global energy supply chain. This is especially true in Europe, where many countries were reliant on the superstate's natural resources, and are now hastily looking to cut ties before the supply is shut off. This has revealed the fragility of Europe’s energy market, and caused it to drive up demand and prices for consumers all over the globe.

In the UK, things are becoming increasingly dire and energy prices are skyrocketing. Bad planning on the infrastructure side and the cancellation of several major domestic energy efficiency programs are exacerbating the problem. It’s clear that real, useful action on the national level isn’t coming any time soon. So, I wondered, what would happen if I, personally, simply tried to break up with natural gas on my own? It’s relatively straightforward but, as it turns out, it comes at a cost that only one percenters will be able to bear. 

Dan Cooper: Energy consumer

I live in a four-bedroom, end-terraced house that’s around 150 years old and I’ve tried, as best as I can, to renovate it in an eco-friendly way. Since we bought it almost a decade ago, my wife and I have insulated most of the rooms, installed a new gas central heating system and hot water cylinder. We are, like nearly 20 million other households in the UK, reliant on natural gas to supply our home heating, hot water and cooking. And in the period between January 8th and April 7th, 2022, I was billed on the following usage:

Usage (kWh)

Cost Per Unit (GBP)

Cost (GBP)

Electricity (incl. standing charge)




Gas (incl. standing charge)




Total (incl. tax and other charges)


Essentially, I paid around $1,300 for my natural gas and electricity in the first quarter of 2022. That figure is likely to rise significantly, as the UK’s mandatory price cap on energy rose by more than 50 percent in April. A further price rise is scheduled for October, with the figure set at £2,800 per year, even though wholesale energy prices are no longer increasing. It’s likely that my energy bill for the first quarter of 2023 will be nearly twice what I’ve just paid. In 2020, the UK reported that 3.16 million households were unable to pay for their energy costs; that figure is likely to leap by 2023.

In the US, the EIA says that monthly utility bills rose to a national average of $122 in 2021, with Hawaii ($178 per month) and Utah ($82 per month) the most expensive and cheapest state to buy energy in. The average price per kWh is around 13.7 cents, which is less than half the comparable price in the UK as it currently stands. For natural gas, the average natural gas price for residential customers was $10.84 per thousand cubic feet in 2020.

The gas problem

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Much of Europe is reliant on natural gas, a significant proportion of which was supplied by Russia. Despite a rapid decline in domestic production, Europe sought to make natural gas the bedrock of its energy policy in the medium term. A 2013 policy paper written by Sami Andoura and Clémentine d’Oultremont outlined the reasons why officials were banking on it. “An economically attractive option for investors, a potential backup source for renewables and the cleanest fossil fuel, natural gas is expected to play an important role in the European transition towards a low-carbon economy by 2050.” This is despite the fact that “European energy resources are being depleted, and energy demand is growing.”

In 2007, then EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said that the bloc is “dependent on imports for over one half of our energy use.” He added that energy security is a “European security issue,” and that the bloc was vulnerable to disruption. “In 10 years, from 1995 to 2005, natural gas consumption in the EU countries has increased from 369 billion to 510 billion m3 [of gas] year,” he said. He added that the EU’s own production capacity and reserves peaked in the year 2000.

The EU’s plan was to pivot toward Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), methane which has been filtered and cooled to a liquid for easier transportation. It enables energy supplies from further afield to be brought over to Europe to satisfy the continent’s need for natural gas. But the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has meant that this transition has now needed to be accelerated as leaders swear off Russian-sourced gas and oil. And while the plan is to push more investment into renewables, LNG imports are expected to fill much of the gap for now.

Except, and this is crucial, many of the policy decisions made during this period seem to be in the belief that nothing bad would, or could, disrupt supply. Here in the UK, wholesale gas prices have risen five times since the start of 2021 but there’s very little infrastructure available to mitigate price fluctuations. 

The Rough Field is a region in the North Sea situated 18 miles off the coast of Yorkshire, and was previously a source of natural gas for the UK. In 1985, however, it was converted into a natural gas storage facility with a capacity of 3.31 billion cubic meters. This one facility was able to fulfill the country’s energy needs for a little more than a week at a time and was considered a key asset to maintaining the UK’s energy security.

However, Centrica, the private company spun out of the former state-owned British Gas, opted to close the field in 2017. It cited safety fears and the high cost of repair as justification for the move, saying that alternative sources of gas – in the form of LNG – were available. At the time, one gas trader told Bloomberg that the closure would “boost winter prices” and “create seasonal swings in wholesale energy costs.” He added that the UK would now be “competing with Asia for winter gas cargoes,” raising prices and increasing reliance on these shipments. 

And, unsurprisingly, the ramifications of this decision were felt in the summer of 2017 when a pair of LNG tankers from Qatar changed course. The vessels were going to the UK, and when they shifted direction, Bloomberg reported that prices started to shift upward almost instantly. 

Analysis from TransitionZero, reported by The Guardian, says that the costs associated with natural gas are now so high that it’s no longer worth investing in as a “transition fuel.” It says that the cost to switch from coal to gas is around $235 per ton of CO2, compared to just $62 for renewables as well as the necessary battery storage.

Swearing off gas

MarianVejcik via Getty Images

In order to break up with gas in my own home, I’ll need to swap out my stovetop (not so hard) and my whole central heating system (pretty hard). The former I can likely achieve for a few hundred dollars, plus or minus the cost of installation. (Some units just plug in to a standard wall socket, so I may be able to do much of the work myself if I’m feeling up to the task.) Of course, getting a professional to unpick the gas pipeline that connects to my stovetop is going to be harder. 

Unfortunately, replacing a 35kW condensing gas boiler (I have the Worcester Bosch Greenstar 35CDi) is going to be a lot harder. The obvious choice is an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP), or even a geothermal Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP), both of which are more environmentally-friendly. After all, both are more energy-efficient than a gas boiler, and both run on electricity which is theoretically cleaner.

More generally, the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, a Government-backed body with a mission to advocate for energy efficiency, says that the average Briton should expect to pay between £7,000 and £13,000 to install an ASHP. Much of that figure is dependent on how much of your home’s existing hardware you’ll need to replace. A GSHP is even more expensive, with the price starting at £14,000 and rising to closer to £20,000 depending on both your home’s existing plumbing and the need to dig a bore hole outside. 

In my case, heat pump specialists told me that, give or take whatever nasties were found during installation, I could expect to pay up to £27,000 ($33,493). This included a new ASHP, radiators, hot water and buffer cylinders, pumps, piping, controllers, parts and labor. Mercifully, the UK is launching a scheme to offer a £5,000 ($6,200) discount on any new heat pump installations. But that still means that I’m paying north of £20,000 (and ripping out a lot of existing materials with plenty of life left in them) to make the switch. 

In the US, there’s plenty of difference on a state level, but at the federal level, you can get a tax credit on the purchase of a qualifying GSHP. A system installed before January 1st, 2023, will earn a 26 percent credit, while a unit running before January 1st, 2024, will be eligible for a 22 percent credit. Purchasers of a qualifying ASHP, meanwhile, were entitled to a $300 tax credit until the end of 2021. 

The contractors also provided me with a calculation of my potential energy savings over the following seven years. It turns out that I’d actually be spending £76 more on fuel per month, and £532 over the whole period. On one hand, if I had the cash to spare, it’s a small price to pay to dramatically reduce my personal carbon emissions. On the other, I was hoping that the initial investment would help me reduce costs overall, but that's not the case while the cost of gas is (ostensibly) cheaper than electricity. (This will, of course, change as energy prices surge in 2023, however, but I can only look at the data as it presently stands.)

An aside: To be honest with you all, I was fully aware that the economic case for installing a heat pump was always going to be a shaky one. When speaking to industry figures last year, they said that the conversation around “payback” isn’t shared when installing standard gas boilers. It doesn’t help that, at present, levies on energy mean that natural gas is subsidized more than energy, disincentivizing people making the switch. The rise of electric cars, too, has meant that demand for power is going to increase sharply as more people switch, forcing greater investment in generation. What’s required just as urgent is a series of measures to promote energy efficiency to reduce overall demand for both gas and electricity. 

Energy efficiency

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

The UK has had an on-again, off-again relationship with climate change mitigation measures, which has helped sow the seeds of this latest crisis. The country, with low winter temperatures, relies almost exclusively on natural gas to heat its homes, its largest energy-consuming sector. As I reported last year, around 85 percent of UK homes are heated by burning natural gas in domestic boilers. 

Work to reduce the UK’s extraordinary demand for natural gas was sabotaged by government in 2013. In 2009, under the previous Labour government, a series of levies on energy companies were introduced under the Community Energy Saving Programme. These levies were added to domestic energy bills, with the proceeds funding works to install wall or roof insulation, as well as energy-efficient heating systems and heating controllers for people on low incomes. The idea was to reduce demand for gas by making homes, and the systems that heated them, far more efficient since most of the UK’s housing stock was insufficiently insulated when built. 

But in 2013, then-Conservative-Prime Minister David Cameron was reportedly quoted as saying that he wanted to reduce the cost of domestic energy bills by getting “rid of all the green crap.” At the time, The Guardian reported that while the wording was not corroborated by government officials, the sentiment was. Essentially, that meant scrapping the levies, which at the time GreenBusinessWatch said was around eight percent of the total cost of domestic energy. Cameron’s administration also scrapped a plan to build zero-carbon homes, and effectively banned the construction of onshore windfarms which would have helped reduce the cost of domestic electricity generation. 

In 2021, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change examined the fallout from this decision, saying that Cameron’s decision kneecapped efforts to reduce demand for natural gas. As Carbon Brief highlighted at the start of 2022, in 2012, there were nearly 2.5 million energy efficiency improvements installed. By 2013, that figure had fallen to just 292,593. The drop off, the Committee on Climate Change believes, has caused insulation installations to fall to “only a third of the rate needed by 2021” to meet the national targets for curbing climate emissions. 

Carbon Brief’s report suggests that the financial savings missed by the elimination of these small levies – the “green crap,” – has cost UK households around £2.5 billion. In recent years, a pressure group – Insulate Britain – has undertaken protests at major traffic intersections to help highlight the need for a new retrofit program to be launched. The current government’s response to their pleas has been to call for tougher criminal penalties for protesters including a jail term of up to six months.

A chart, courtesy of Carbon Brief, showing the impact of the removal of the 'green crap' levies on domestic energy-efficiency installations in the UK.
Carbon Brief

Making my own power

Andia via Getty Images

Looking back through my energy bills over the last few years, my household’s annual electricity consumption is around 4,500kWh per year. A heat pump would likely add a further 6,000kWh to my energy bill, not to mention any additional cost for switching to all-electric cooking. It would be sensible to see if I could generate some, or all, of my own energy at home using solar panels to help reduce the potential bill costs. 

The Energy Saving Trust says that the average homeowner can expect to pay £6,500 for a 4.2kWp system on the roof of their home. Environmental factors such as the country you live in and orientation of your property mean you can’t be certain how much power you’ll get out of a specific solar panel, but we can make educated guesses. For instance, the UK’s Renewable Energy Hub says you can expect to get around 850kW per year out of a 1kW system. For a theoretical 5kWp system in my location, the Energy Saving Trust thinks I’ll be able to generate around 4,581kWh per year. 

Sadly, I live in an area where, even though my roof is brand new and strong enough to take panels, they aren’t allowed. This is because it is an area of “architectural or historic interest where the character and appearance [of the area] needs to be protected or improved.” Consequently, I needed to explore work to ground-mount solar panels in my back garden, which gets plenty of sunlight. 

While I expected grounded panel installations to be much cheaper, they apparently aren’t. Two contractors I spoke to said that while their average roof-based installation is between £5,000 and £7,000, a 6kWp system on the ground would cost closer to £20,000. It would be, in fact, cheaper to build a sturdy shed in the bit of back yard I had my eye on and install a solar system on top of there, compared to just getting the mounting set up on the ground. That’s likely to spool out the cost even further, and that’s before we get to the point of talking about battery storage. 

The bill

undefined undefined via Getty Images

For this rather nifty thought experiment, the cost for me to be able to walk away from natural gas entirely would be north of £30,000 ($37,000). Given that the average UK salary is roughly £38,000, it’s a sum that is beyond the reach of most people without taking out a hefty loan. This is, fundamentally, why the need for government action is so urgent, since it is certainly beyond the ability of most people to achieve this change on their own. 

In fact, it’s going to require significant movement from central government not just in the UK but elsewhere to really shake our love-hate relationship with natural gas. Unfortunately, given that it’s cheap, cleaner than coal and the energy lobby has plenty of muscle behind it, that’s not likely to happen soon. And so we’re stuck in a trap – it’s too expensive to do it ourselves (although that’ll certainly be an interesting experiment to undertake) and there’s no help coming, despite the energy crisis that’s unfurling around us.

Rivian pushes back deliveries of its R1S SUV once again

Early buyers of Rivian’s latest electric SUV are facing another delivery delay. A number of customers who pre-ordered Rivian’s R1S SUV received an email this week informing them that an expected June or July delivery window has been pushed back several months. According to Auto Evolution, customers posted on Rivian’s forum that their delivery window had been updated to August or September 2022, or as late as October through December 2022. The EV maker first debuted the seven-passenger vehicle — which has a starting price of $72,500 — back in November 2018, and has pushed back deliveries multiple times, citing production delays and supply chain issues. Deliveries of the first batch of R1S SUVs were originally slated for August 2021.

The company in its email chalked up the latest delay to ongoing supply chain issues and its limited service infrastructure. It said that it would prioritize deliveries to areas that are close to Rivian service centers. Rivan currently operates service centers in only 14 states, so customers in other areas will likely have an even longer wait.

“As we continue to assess our supply chain and build plans, we want to provide an update on your estimated delivery window,” wrote Rivian in its email to customers. It stated that the customer’s updated delivery window was based on three factors: their preorder date, delivery location and current configuration. But a number of early customers seemed puzzled at how Rivian calculated the new delivery window. One customer noted that they pre-ordered the R1S SUV back in November 2019, yet was assigned to the later delivery window of the fourth quarter of 2022. Many customers who lived in especially remote areas or in a state without a Rivian service center also reported later delivery windows. “The irony of an off-road adventure vehicle delivered only to major cities,” wrote one Rivian customer on the company's forum.

Rivian has struggled to scale up production of its vehicles amidst a global parts shortage, including semiconductors. The Tesla competitor isn’t able to rely on existing relationships with parts suppliers, which traditionally prioritize the larger, more established car companies, the Wall Street Journal noted.

UK regulator plans to launch probe into Google's and Apple's mobile duopoly

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concluded that Google and Apple "hold all the cards" when it comes to mobile phones a year after taking a closer look at their "duopoly." It's now consulting on the launch of a market investigation into the tech giants' market power in mobile browsers, as well as into Apple's cloud gaming restrictions. In addition, the CMA has launched a separate investigation into Google's Play Store rules — the one that requires certain app developers to use the tech giant's payment system for in-app purchases, in particular. 

The CMA has concluded after its year-long study that the tech giants do indeed exhibit an "effective duopoly" on mobile ecosystems. A total of 97 percent of all mobile web browsing in the UK is powered by Apple's and Google's browser engines. iPhones and Android devices typically come with Safari and Chrome pre-installed, which means their browsers have the advantage from the start. Further, Apple requires developers to make sure their iOS and iPadOS apps are using its WebKit engine to browse the web. That limits the incentives Apple may have to invest in Safari, the CMA said.

The agency also pointed out that Apple enforces policies that prevent cloud gaming apps from being available to download from its App Store. Under its rules, cloud gaming services would have to individually submit each playable game for review and approval if they want to be listed. The company eventually carved out an exception, but only to make services like Xbox Cloud Gaming available on iOS devices through a browser.

In its announcement, the CMA explained that the lack of intervention would allow the tech giants to maintain and even strengthen their hold not just over mobile browsers, but also over mobile operating systems and app stores. Their duopoly could stifle competition and limit incentives for individuals and other companies to innovate and develop new products and technologies for those markets. 

Hyundai's first all-EV factory in the US will be in Georgia

Hyundai is betting big on American electric vehicle sales. The automaker has struck a deal with Georgia to build its first dedicated EV factory in the US. The 2,923-acre plant near Savannah will make cars and batteries when production is projected to start in the first half of 2025. Construction starts in early 2023. The company expects to manufacture 300,000 EVs per year at the facility, covering a "wide range" of models.

Multiple factors led to the location choice. Hyundai pointed to "favorable business conditions" that included speedy market access, a large talent pool and an existing network that includes Kia's main manufacturing hub as well as suppliers. Unnamed incentives play a part, according to Savannah Morning News. However, it's also a prime spot for transportation. The factory is less than 31 miles from Savannah's port, which is the largest container stopover in the US and has two railway facilities at its disposal. Add the proximity of two major highways (the I-95 and I-16) and it will be easy for Hyundai to receive supplies and ship finished EVs.

Not surprisingly, both Georgia and Hyundai are touting economic benefits. They estimate the investment to be worth $5.54 billion, with Governor Brian Kemp claiming it will be the "largest project" in state history. Hyundai further claimed the plant would create 8,100 jobs, although it's not clear how many of those are full-time, permanent roles.

The annual production level won't be quite as strong as Hyundai's conventional manufacturing output. The company's Montgomery, Alabama plant can make up to 399,500 vehicles per year. This represents a major commitment to EVs, however, and suggests Hyundai is racing to compete with Tesla, Rivian, Volkswagen and other brands expanding their electric car production in the country.

Samsung's new phone storage standard is twice as fast

Samsung has introduced the latest iteration of its Universal Flash Storage product, which it says is much, much faster than its predecessor. The UFS specification was already developed to enable SSD speeds for cameras, phones and other devices, but this version — called UFS 4.0 — has a speed that reaches 23.2Gbps per lane. That's double the speed of UFS 3.1, the standard used by Samsung's S22 flagship phones. The tech giant says its huge bandwidth makes it perfect for 5G smartphones that typically require huge amounts of data processing. Samsung also expects it to be adopted for use in the automotive industry, as well as for augmented and virtual reality devices.

The flash storage features Samsung's 7th-generation V-NAND solution and proprietary controller, and the company says those help it deliver sequential read speeds of up to 4,200MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 2,800MB/s. It's a lot more power efficient, as well, with a 46 percent improvement over the previous generation that could translate to longer battery life. Samsung's USF 4.0 devices will have max measurements of 11mm x 13mm x 1mm and will come in several capacities up to 1TB.

The company will begin mass producing UFS 4.0 storage products in the third quarter of 2022. Right now, Samsung says it's "collaborating with smartphone and consumer device manufacturers globally" and "working vigorously to foster an ecosystem for UFS 4.0 to drive the market for high-performance mobile storage solutions."

BREAKING: Samsung has developed the industry's highest performing Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 4.0 storage solution, which has received JEDEC® board of director approval. What is UFS 4.0 and what does it mean for the future of storage? Read on to learn more.

— Samsung Semiconductor (@SamsungDSGlobal) May 3, 2022

Activision Blizzard shareholders approve Microsoft's $68.7 billion takeover bid

Activision Blizzard's shareholders have overwhelmingly voted in favor of a proposed $68.7 billion takeover by Microsoft. More than 98 percent of the shares that voted at a special meeting held on Thursday approved of the merger.

Though the company called the vote non-binding and advisory, the deal could not have moved forward without the majority of shareholders giving it the green light. The board of directors unanimously agreed it was in the best interest of Activision Blizzard and its shareholders, and recommended they vote in favor.

The planned merger is not finalized and it could still collapse. The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the deal and is expected to closely scrutinize the details. Under chair Lina Khan, the FTC has put the kibosh on NVIDIA's attempt to buy ARM and revived an antitrust case against Meta over its purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp.

Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will also need regulatory approval from the UK, the European Union, China and some other jurisdictions, according to an SEC filing. The companies expect the deal to close by June 2023.

There are other considerations that may impact the planned Activision Blizzard-Microsoft merger beyond antitrust concerns. The embattled game publisher has been the subject of lawsuits and accusations alleging workplace harassment and discrimination. Meanwhile, some quality assurance workers at Activision studio Raven Software are holding a union election over the next few weeks.

Samsung reports steep rise in profit for the first quarter of 2022

Samsung has reported a massive rise in operating profit for the first three months of 2022, thanks in part to the robust demand for its memory chips and the strong sales of its new Galaxy flagship devices. The Korean tech giant has posted an operating profit of KRW 14.12 trillion ($11.12 billion), which is 51 percent higher than the same period last year, and a record consolidated revenue of KRW 77.78 trillion ($61.2 billion). 

As usual, Samsung's memory division was a standout performer, exceeding market forecasts because memory prices didn't drop as much as analysts had expected. It posted a consolidated revenue of KRW 26.87 trillion ($21.14 billion), and while it saw a slight decline in profit due to incentives and seasonality, demand for PC and server chips remained solid. The company's foundry business also contributed to the division's performance by achieving its highest ever first quarter sales. Samsung is optimistic for the division's prospects going forward, but it also expects component shortages to persist through the second half of the year and will constantly monitor the situation. 

While overall demand for mobile was down due to seasonality and "geopolitical uncertainties," Samsung posted higher profit (KRW 3.82 trillion or $3 billion) and revenue (KRW 32.37 trillion or $25.5 billion) for the division this quarter compared to the last. The strong sales of its new flagship phones, particularly the Galaxy S22 Ultra, as well as of its mass market 5G phones contributed to both profit and revenue growth. Despite the allegations that a preinstalled app on S22 phones is throttling the performance of several applications, the company previously said that demand for the flagship is 20 percent higher than of its predecessor's. Samsung expects component shortages for mobile to continue, as well, but it also expects the availability of component supplies for the S22 to improve. That's why it plans to focus on maintaining strong sales for its flagships in the next quarter.

The tech giant reports a rise in mobile display earnings due to solid demand for premium products, as well. For larger displays, it says its QD monitors were well-received. It debuted its QD-OLED technology, which differs from standard OLED in that it only uses blue organic light-emitting diodes for a brighter output, at CES earlier this year. Samsung's TV business lagged behind its other divisions, though, and saw a decline in demand following strong sales in the end of 2021 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In early March, Samsung halted its product shipments to Russia, where it has a TV plant and where it's known as the top smartphone brand. 

California pilot program turns GM's EVs into roving battery packs

While not nearly as much of a mess as Texas' energy infrastructure, California's power grid has seen its fair share of brownouts, rolling blackouts, and power outages caused by wildfires caused by PG&E. To help mitigate the economic impact of those disruptions, this summer General Motors and Northern California's energy provider will team up to test out using the automaker's electric vehicles as roving, backup battery packs for the state's power grid. 

The pilot program announced by GM CEO Mary Barra on CNBC Tuesday morning is premised on birectional charging technology, wherein power can both flow from the grid to a vehicle (G2V charging) and from a vehicle back to the grid (V2G), allowing the vehicle to act as an on-demand power source. GM plans to offer this capability as part of its Ultium battery platform on more than a million of its EVs by 2025. Currently the Nissan Leaf and the Nissan e-NV200 offer V2G charging, though Volkswagen announced in 2021 that its ID line will offer it later this year and the the Ford F-150 Lightning will as well. 

This summer's pilot will initially investigate, "the use of bidirectional hardware coupled with software-defined communications protocols that will enable power to flow from a charged EV into a customer’s home, automatically coordinating between the EV, home and PG&E’s electric supply," according to a statement from the companies. Should the initial tests prove fruitful, the program will expand first to a small group of PG&E customers before scaling up to "larger customer trials" by the end of 2022.

"Imagine a future in which there's an EV in every garage that functions as a backup power source whenever it's needed," GM spokesperson Rick Spina said during a press call on Monday.

"We see this expansion as being the catalyst for what could be the most transformative time for for two industries, both utilities and the auto automotive industry" PG&E spokesperson Aaron August added. "This is a huge shift in the way we're thinking about electric vehicles, and personal vehicles overall. Really, it's not just about getting from point A to point B anymore. It's about getting from point A to point B with the ability to provide power."

Technically, like from a hardware standpoint, GM vehicles can provide bidirectional charging as they are currently being sold, Spina noted during the call. The current challenge, and what this pilot program is designed to address, is developing the software and UX infrastructure needed to ensure that PG&E customers can easily use the system day-to-day. "The good news there is, it's nothing different from what's already industry standard for connectors, software protocols," August said. "The industry is moving towards ISO 15118-20."

The length of time that an EV will be able to run the household it's tethered to will depend on a number of factors — from the size of the vehicle's battery to the home's power consumption to the prevailing weather — but August estimates that for an average California home using 20 kWh daily, a fully-charged Chevy Bolt would have enough juice to power the house for around 3 days. This pilot program comes as automakers and utilities alike work out how to most effectively respond to the state's recent directive banning the sale of internal combustion vehicles starting in 2035.