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By MARI ECCLES
with Joshua Posaner, Simon Van Dorpe and Eddy Wax
— We’re in Farnborough as the airshow kicks off for the first time since the pandemic began.
— Why Germany’s state rail DB won’t give up its data.
— The battery industry is freaking out over the Commission’s lithium classification.
Good morning, and welcome to Morning Mobility. Hello from an extremely hot Farnborough Air Show! I’ll be here all week; if you are too, drop me a line!
Tips to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]
FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW KICKS OFF: The aviation industry descends this week on Farnborough in Hampshire for the first major commercial airshow since Paris in 2019. More than 80,000 visitors are expected to experience the five-day bonanza, which will be an opportunity for the sector to demonstrate how it’s recovering from a bruising two years during the COVID pandemic.
What to expect? Much of the focus will be on planemakers Airbus and Boeing, who will be showing off new models in the hope of picking up big orders. The fortunes of the two companies have differed in recent years: The U.S. manufacturer has had a difficult time of it commercially since two fatal crashes of the 737 MAX in 2018 and 2019. It’s anticipated, meanwhile, that Airbus will sell more of its long-fusellage A321neo model, including an order from German carrier Condor. But there should be bright spots for Boeing, too: The company can expect orders worth more than $15 billion for its 737 MAX from Lufthansa and Delta Airlines, according to Reuters. The Seattle Times reports that the prospective orders for the U.S. planemaker would represent a thawing of tensions between Delta and Boeing, after the manufacturer tried (and failed) to use government-imposed tariffs to prevent the airline from buying Airbus jets in 2018.
Pressure is on: Boeing will be wanting a successful show. The manufacturer has fallen behind Airbus, its European rival, which is leading the categories of orders and deliveries in 2022. But it’s unlikely that its 737 Max 10 aircraft, which it is bringing to Farnborough, will be certified by regulators by the end of the year, according to the BBC. That would make it subject to new rules on cockpit safety alerts, which in turn would force the manufacturer to tweak the flight deck, requiring new training for pilots who are used to other 737 models.
Future of flight: Aside from the commercial aspect, the airshow is also a chance to demonstrate how flying might change in the coming years and decades. Expect a big focus on “electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft” (what we like to think of as flying taxis).
Elephant in the room: Given that the airshow coincides with record-breaking heat across much of the U.K. and Europe, it’s hard not to think of the climate crisis. The aviation industry will be keen to prove that it can decarbonize, with several panels focusing on sustainable aviation fuels and, specifically, new tech.
WHY DB WON’T GIVE UP ITS DATA: Germany’s state rail Deutsche Bahn has long been in conflict with private ticket vendors and railway operators over its approach to data access. For example, it won’t let platforms access key information about delays or sell discount tickets; nor will it allow seats for alternative operators such as Flixtrain to be sold through its own dominant platform, a market leader called bahn.com (bahn literally means “railways”). That site is effectively state-funded, given that DB is state-owned, and it’s a go-to for most European rail travelers since it has schedules uploaded for all European trains (even though, in most cases, the DB website can’t actually sell bookings for non-German routes unless they start in a German city).
That long-standing row between DB and its challengers is now being examined by Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (with the European Commission likely to legislate on some of the broader aspects of open data later this year, officials have told us). According to our colleague Louis Westendarp, DB says it’s simply more efficient to handle its own ticket distribution; however, the company is on shaky ground here given that the platform is so dominant and that open data cracked the aviation market open years ago. Many rail watchers expect a rapid period of market liberalization in the next few years. With efficient railways very important for the green shift, the thinking goes, it should be easier to book travel between big capitals by train than it actually is. This makes the DB case in Germany a critical test.
Find Louis’s full story here.
Airlines ahead: Unlike with airlines, where numerous platforms exist that can sell tickets from A-to-B worldwide, travelers often have to go to different national platforms such as bahn.com to find tickets for cross-Continent trips. For example, try booking a journey between Berlin and London, and see how difficult it is to find a single price from an operator.
Now what? Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said back in April that access to such data is vital since without it, competition in the passenger rail sector is hobbled. A final decision in the case could drop within weeks, one person told Louis, but the watchdog wouldn’t be pinned down to specify a date.
**A message from GE: GE is developing technologies to reduce CO2 emissions for a more sustainable future of flight. This includes innovating advanced new engine architectures such as open fan through the CFM International joint venture, megawatt-class hybrid electric propulsion, advanced new engine core designs, and supporting alternative fuels research. Learn More.**
BREAKING DOWN THE BATTERY CASH DUMP? The European Commission is great at announcing big numbers and big projects on things like batteries and hydrogen as part of its state-backed investment programs. However, it’s less good at breaking down where the money comes from and where it all goes on strategic initiatives. Last week’s approval of a record €5.4 billion in subsidies for an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on hydrogen technology, Hy2Tech – essentially a multi-state subsidy project on steroids – was accompanied by details on which companies got public funding from a 2019 IPCEI for batteries, which is rather a big deal.
How long? It took two-and-a-half years for that information to see the light of day, and the document still only provides a range for the taxpayer grant that each company got. The program aims to provide carmakers with local battery cells for use in electric cars, rather than having them depend on imports, predominantly from China.
Who gets the cash: Of the 41 projects, 15 are based in France, 10 in Italy and six in Germany, French MEP Christophe Grudler said in a statement. Some €2 billion of the €5.4 billion aid approved by the Commission comes from French coffers. The French region of Nord Franche-Comté, close to the border with Switzerland, welcomes three big projects, Grudler said: €247 million for Alstom, €213 million for Faurecia and €114 million for McPhy.
And the winner is … ? The largest beneficiary of the 2019 IPCEI was the Automotive Cells Company (ACC), which received between €500 million and €1 billion in French aid and between €350 million and €510 million in German support. ACC is a joint venture between battery specialist Saft Groupe and Stellantis’ Peugeot and Opel units. BMW came away with between €73 million and €122 million in German aid.
LITHIUM CLASSIFICATION FREAK-OUT: The European Commission will soon decide whether to classify lithium as a toxic chemical — causing an uproar among battery and raw material producers who argue that doing so will derail the bloc’s transition to green energy. Specifically, lobbyists argue it will undermine efforts to boost the bloc’s strategic autonomy on battery cell production for automakers (which is why so much cash from the IPCEI program has been flooding into the sector as described above).
Read the full story from Antonia Zimmermann and Leonie Cater here.
UK LAUNCHES AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS CHARTER: The U.K. government launched an “Aviation Passenger Charter” on Sunday to inform flyers of their rights in the event they face delays, cancellations or other travel problems at airports this summer and beyond. Airports such as Heathrow are creaking under the pressure caused by staff shortages in the aftermath of the lifting of COVID travel restrictions.
‘Peace of mind’: The charter provides guidance on how to complain and demand compensation. “The new charter will help to give UK passengers peace of mind as they enjoy the renewed freedom to travel, whether for holidays, business or to visit loved ones,” said U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
EU car sales have now hit their lowest level for the month of June since 1996 amid a semiconductor and broader supply chain crisis, we report.
The European Investment Bank is pledging to cut spending on roads, writes the Financial Times.
**A message from GE: GE has outlined what is one of the company’s most extensive technology development roadmaps in its more than 100-year history. Multiple ground and flight tests planned this decade will seek new, breakthrough technologies for use in next-generation commercial aircraft engines that could enter service beginning in the mid-2030s. Advanced engine architectures such as open fan, hybrid electric propulsion systems, and new compact engine core designs—just some of the technologies that will be demonstrated on test stands over the coming years—all will be key programs to watch in 2022 and beyond. In addition to maturing these technologies for the future of flight, GE also supports efforts to increase use and availability of alternative fuels, such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and hydrogen. Revolutionary technologies and alternative fuels both have critical roles to play in meeting the aviation industry’s long-term climate goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 for commercial flight. Learn More.**