A panic-induced sell-off in the oil market triggered by virus concerns has thrown the commodity’s upward march into question — but energy experts at Goldman Sachs don’t appear to be rattled.
Fears over the surging delta coronavirus variant and a fresh supply boost agreement from OPEC+ sent oil prices tumbling down more than 7% as the trading week opened Monday.
The drop was the steepest since March, a rude awakening for oil bulls who’d been enjoying the commodities’ highest prices in 2½ years.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $68.42 a barrel at 2:15 p.m. in London on Tuesday, down just over 7% from its Friday close of $73.59 a barrel.
Oil analysts were quick to stress the uncertain road ahead for demand as new waves of Covid-19 infections ― many among communities that have high vaccination rates ― threaten the recent months of economic recovery.
“The market is clearly unsettled about the demand outlook. And rightly so. The rise in delta variant cases is raising questions about the sustainability of demand,” Stephen Brennock, a senior analyst at PVM Oil Associates in London, wrote in a research note Tuesday entitled “Oil takes a beating.”
But analysts at Goldman Sachs led by Senior Commodity Strategist Damien Courvalin see the current setback as merely a speedbump, with little concrete reason for oil bulls to be worried.
Supply driving the bulls?
Oil balances globally are tighter than they were before, despite the agreement between OPEC and its allies over the weekend to cumulatively increase crude production by 400,000 barrels a day on a monthly basis beginning in August.
The International Energy Agency estimated a 1.5 million barrel per day shortfall for the second half of this year compared to its demand predictions in the absence of an OPEC supply deal.
And Goldman predicts the impact from delta to be in the neighborhood of “a potential 1 mb/d (million barrels per day) hit for only a couple months, and even less if vaccines prove effective at lowering hospitalizations in DMs (developing markets), the origin of most summer demand improvements,” as per its latest report.
Goldman’s call is in line with its previously bullish stance, which saw it forecasting Brent hitting $80 per barrel in the second half of this year.
The optimistic recovery outlook, paired with what it sees as a “slower” production ramp-up than expected from OPEC and tighter supply, so far means that “our constructive view on oil prices remains intact.” But the immediate-term demand hit from delta fears triggered a swap in the lender’s quarterly forecasts: It now expects Brent to average $75 per barrel in the third quarter of this year and only reach $80 by the fourth quarter.
“Oil prices may continue to gyrate wildly in the coming weeks given the uncertainties of the Delta variant and the slow velocity of supply developments,” Goldman’s analysts wrote.
Nonetheless, they continued, “we believe that the oil market repricing to a higher equilibrium is far from over, with the bullish impulse shifting from the demand to the supply side.”
The China factor
A less talked-about factor in the future demand picture is the world’s biggest oil customer: China. The recovery of the planet’s second-largest economy is showing signs of losing momentum, which would throw a major wrench in the trajectory for crude.
China’s crude imports were down 2% in May from the previous month and the lowest monthly volume since the year began, according to PVM Associates, falling to 9.77 million barrels per day. In July, they fell further to 9.55 million barrels per day, according to Refinitiv Oil Research. The country’s imports for the first half of 2021 were down 3% from the same period in 2020, and the first contraction of that level since 2013.
“China’s latest GDP data suggest the nation’s V-shaped economic rebound from Covid-19 is cooling,” PVM’s Brennock wrote. “More worryingly, recent customs data out of China is giving the market some mixed signals that are tilted to the bearish side.”
The confluence of uncertain demand due to the delta variant, cooling import levels from China and re-introduced supply from OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, suggest bearish signals to the market. But how long the uncertainty will last and whether national vaccine campaigns can offset the mutating virus will ultimately drive the demand picture. In the meantime, supply dynamics, particularly current inventory tightness, continues to give some fuel to the oil bulls.
“Questions are being asked whether the recently announced increase in OPEC+ supply will overwhelm the recovery in demand,” Brennock wrote. “Currently, this seems unlikely, although the evidence from the world’s top oil importing nation appears to favour the bearish narrative.”
Tesla releases stealth update with new features
Tesla has released a new software update to its fleet and while the release notes remain unchanged, there are a few exciting features that were stealth updated.
The automaker has started to push its 2023.11.4.2 software update.
The update’s release notes are the same as the previous update, but Tesla often updates or adds features without discussing them.
That’s the case with this new update, according to Green, a well-known Tesla hacker who often discovers new features inside Tesla’s code.
He reported that the latest update includes several stealth changes:
Like most premium vehicles today, Tesla has an automatic wiper system that automatically matches the speed of the wipers to the intensity of the rain or snow.
However, unlike most other automakers, Tesla doesn’t use a rain sensor for its system.
Instead, the automaker is using its Autopilot cameras to feed its computer vision neural net to determine the speed for the wipers.
It has been deployed in Tesla vehicles since 2018, but many owners have been complaining that it is not as accurate as other systems using rain sensors.
Tesla’s solution was an update called ‘Deep Rain’ that used a new neural net to power the feature. It came out in 2019, but it was a marginal improvement.
Now Green reports that owners can shut it down if they don’t like it.
Another important stealth update for safety in this new software update is the ability for automatic emergency braking (AEB) to brake for vehicles cutting into your lane. Previously, it would try to avoid things with steering, but AEB was reserved to prevent or reduce the impact for something blocking your way.
For FSD Beta users, the update also now reduces suspensions, which occur after misuse, like not paying attention to the road when using, to one week instead to two weeks.
America’s first US-built electric mini-truck begins street-legal homologation
The AYRO Vanish has grabbed headlines over the past year as it rolls ever closer to production at AYRO’s Texas factory. Now the electric mini-truck’s final step ahead of manufacturing has begun as the Vanish starts street-legal homologation.
The AYRO Vanish is an electric utility vehicle that is designed to fit into the low-speed vehicle (LSV) federal designation. The mini-truck uses a lightweight architecture to limit the entire vehicle weight and maximize the allowable payload.
The Vanish boasts a payload of up to 1,200 lb (544 kg), which is fairly close to many standard-sized pickup trucks. For comparison, a 2023 Ford F-150’s payload capacity starts at 1,310 lb (594 kg). The company also indicated that it plans to produce a non-street legal variant that will have a higher payload capacity of 1,800 pounds (816 kg). That model would be applicable to work sites, campuses and other areas where use on public roads is not required.
Unlike standard pickup trucks, the Vanish offers highly adaptable configurations. Optional rear cargo configurations including food boxes, flat beds, utility beds with three-sided tailgates, and van boxes for secure storage all point to potential commercial applications for the vehicle.
And those future commercial customers could be getting their hands on the Vanish’s steering wheel sooner rather than later. Heading for homologation testing means that the company is now closer than ever to putting those various designs on the road.
As AYRO CEO Tom Wittenschlaeger explained:
“Now that we’ve completed our internal testing, it’s time to ensure that the award-winning Vanish meets requirements of our national governing bodies. Once we’ve completed this process and receive final approval, we can begin delivering vehicles to our customers and dealers.”
In order for any road-worthy vehicle to be considered for sale, the vehicle must go through homologation to ensure it is safe and complies with government regulations.
LSVs have reduced regulatory hurdles, but there are still many safety requirements and design considerations to be addressed. The vehicles must meet regulations for the construction, design, durability, and performance requirements as outlined by federal governing bodies. In the US, this process is governed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This complex process of homologation allows for vehicles to be officially classified by date and category as well as have official and certifiable technical information and specifications. The Vanish is completing homologation for both the United States and Canada, for which testing includes the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 500, Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) 500 and California Air Resources Board (C.A.R.B.).
In parallel with its homologation phase, AYRO is now planning to begin Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) by early June to begin building the first 50 Vanish units that will be used as demo models for signed dealers.
The company plans to enter full-scale production upon the successful completion of its first 50 units.
As AYRO’s senior vice president of programs added:
“Our team has worked diligently to prepare for this day. This is one of the final steps in our product development process. Concurrently with homologation, we plan to begin LRIP and immediately following begin delivering vehicles to our customers and dealers.”
The AYRO Vanish opened for orders earlier this month, launching at a starting price of $33,990. While that price is more expensive than several other imported electric mini-trucks, the Vanish’s modular design (and soon-to-be street legal status) is a key differentiator.
AYRO’s vice president of Dealer Sales, Terry Kahl, previously explained the advantages of a modular platform:
With swappable bed configurations, we believe dealers can find a use case for the Vanish with almost any of their existing clientele. We have indications of interest from a rapidly growing number of dealers and now incoming dealers can find added value in that AYRO is accepting their pre-orders even before they join our dealer network. It should be an absolute win-win for our existing and onboarding dealers as well as future dealers.
WAU Project Cyber teased as ‘revolutionary’ high performance electric bike
We see new e-bike launches practically every week here at Electrek, but we rarely seem something quite so… futuristic looking as the upcoming WAU model currently being teased. The UK-based electric bike company is dripping out imagines of its upcoming Project Cyber, which looks like something between a high performance electric bicycle and a light electric motorcycle.
It’s not uncommon for e-bike companies to expand into the moped or light motorbike space. We watched it happen with SONDORS when the company unveiled the Metacycle, SUPER73 with the C1X, and several other smaller e-bike companies.
And while we don’t yet know how the Project Cyber e-bike will be classified, it’s certainly looking like it could be headed in a similarly aggressive direction.
WAU is best known for its long range, urban-oriented electric bikes with enclosed frames and iconic seat stay tail lights that also serve as highly visible turn signals.
It’s a welcome, distinguished design that sets itself apart from many of the other cookie cutter e-bikes we’ve seen over the last few years.
And it appears that WAU may be sticking with some of the same design language for its upcoming Project Cyber, based on the first few teaser images.
The company has been dripping out images and information in a Facebook group set up for sharing details about the upcoming e-bike.
One of the more revealing pieces of information includes a set of design drawings from early in the project. Multiple concepts can be seen, including some with and without bicycle pedals.
The inclusion of bicycle pedals would lend credence to this being a high performance e-bike, while a lack of pedals would put the two-wheeler into light motorbike territority.
WAU seems to be investing heavily in the bike’s technology, though it isn’t quite clear yet what that could mean in terms of features. Many new e-bikes have started to feature advanced connectivity features closer to that of electric cars, including telemetrics and remote operations. A teaser on the company’s site seems to imply that built-in GPS tracking may be included on the WAU Cyber e-bike.
The company is still playing it close to the vest with most details, but suggests that the new model could “revolutionize the industry.”
As WAU explained in the Facebook group description, “Get ready to be blown away by the most stylish pedelec the world has ever seen. Our state-of-the-art technology and design are set to revolutionize the industry, and we are thrilled to have you join us on this journey.”
The company also released several images showing a prototype frame being welded together, seen below.
We don’t yet know what else the WAU Cyber will hold in store for us, but with the reveal expected to come soon, we shouldn’t have to wait for long.
What do you think WAU will unveil as part of Project Cyber? Share your thoughts and guesses in the comment section below.
We’ll be sure to update as soon as we have more information on the upcoming e-bike.
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