Monday, July 24, 2017

Nissan ProPILOT Level 2 Autonomous Driving System Will Debut On 2018 LEAF

Nissan’s intuitive new ProPILOT Assist is a fresh “hands-on-wheel” Level 2 autonomous driving technology that essentially eases driver workload. While providing steering aid and reducing the need for constant small steering adjustments, Nissan is moving another cautious step towards fully autonomous vehicles.As implied above, the driver’s hands must be on the steering wheel at all time. This is a notable departure from Tesla’s Autopilot, which lets you take your hands off the wheel for a while before warning you to grab hold or get kicked out of Autopilot.
Nissan autonomous driving system
I’ve never met a Nissan LEAF driver who did not love their EV. It is the most sold electric car in history, which may not get it the attention of a Tesla Model S but is still notable and marks Nissan’s leadership in this space. The ProPILOT news is another pioneering move for Nissan.
For the first time on public roads in the US, Nissan recently put media behind the wheel to experience its ProPILOT Assist technology. “ProPILOT Assist reduces the hassle of stop-and-go driving by helping control acceleration, braking, and steering during single-lane highway driving.”
As with all autonomous driving technologies, safety is a key issue and often out front, hand in hand with convenience. Nissan believes it helps lessen drivers’ fatigue, increasing their level of alertness when they need to manage a difficult situation.
“ProPILOT Assist uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors and electronic control module to help the driver stay in the center of the driving lane and to maintain vehicle speed (set by the driver) or help maintain a gap to the preceding vehicle if the vehicle speed drops below the driver-set speed,” Nissan writes. “It also can slow the vehicle to a complete stop and holds the vehicle during traffic jam conditions.
“Hands-on detection is provided by the system’s steering torque sensor. If the driver only grips the steering system with a light touch, the warning system may activate, alerting the driver to apply more pressure or a tighter grip on the steering wheel.”
The recent ProPILOT Assist autonomous driving system was specifically tuned for US roads and drivers. Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Michigan led the development — with more than 50,000 miles on roads across the United States. ProPILOT Assist is a perfect transition for those a bit nervous about self-driving features, as it is a “hands-on” driver assist system.
“Steering assist is canceled in inclement weather if the windshield wipers are in the low or high position (if lane lines can be detected, the system can remain active when the wipers are in the intermittent mode or if the mist function is activated).” As with Cruise Control, lane assistance is also canceled with the driver’s braking. “The driver’s input always takes priority, overriding the system when the steering wheel is turned or the turn signal is operated (steering assistance goes into a temporary standby mode). The system also goes into temporary standby mode when the accelerator pedal is pressed.”
ProPILOT Assist features “two-button” activation. The driver first must push the blue ProPILOT Assist “ON” button, which is integrated into the right-side steering wheel spoke. Step two is to set the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, as with a normal advanced cruise control system.
“When lane markers are consistently detected, steering assist engages and the steering wheel/lane marker icons on the instrument panel turn green. Both right and left-hand markers need to be detected by the front camera. Steering assist will engage or disengage depending on the visibility or presence of lane markers, though the Intelligent Cruise Control will remain active.”
The driver just presses the resume button or taps the accelerator pedal to resume autonomous driving again if stopped in traffic.
“ProPILOT Assist functionally enhances the ICC system, including stop, hold and start, while the steering assist’s lane centering helps keep the vehicle in the center of the lane,” added Takeshi Yamaguchi, senior vice president, Research, and Development, Nissan Technical Center North America, Nissan North America, Inc.
“Drivers who have experienced ProPILOT Assist always remark about the difference it makes, not realizing how many accelerations, steering and braking inputs they make under normal driving – and how much more enjoyable it is to have ProPILOT Assist help to take care of it for them.”
Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist will be available later this year.
Nissan’s technology will extend 10 more models in Europe, Japan, China, and the United States by 2020 via the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
“Nissan is a technology pioneer and ProPILOT Assist sets a strong, consumer-focused foundation for fully autonomous vehicles of the future,” said Yamaguchi.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Chevy Volt May Be Casualty Of SUV Craze

The sedan is falling rapidly out of favor in many world markets but especially so in America, where demand for SUVs is rising to a fever pitch. GM is reporting sedan sales are down over 30% so far this year. Amid predictions that sedans will be even less popular in the future, The General is considering the elimination of 6 sedans from its product lineup, including the iconic Chevrolet Impala and its highly regarded PHEV vehicle, the Chevy Volt. The Volt may exit the Chevy lineup in 2022.

The company’s investment in the Voltec plug-in hybrid technology won’t go to waste, however. Word is that Chevrolet will introduce a new plug-in hybrid sport utility vehicle known as the CrossVolt in 2020. GM renewed its trademark on that name in late 2104.
An SUV version of the Volt makes a lot of sense. As good as the current Volt is, it suffers from a lack of passenger space, particularly in the back seat. The middle of the rear seat is not really suitable for a real person and the headliner needs two areas scooped out on either side to provide enough head room for adults. A PHEV SUV would likely prove quite popular.
Back in 2010, Chevrolet released photos of a concept plug-in hybrid SUV style vehicle it called the Volt MPV5. In today’s world, the styling of that concept may seem rather bland, but there’s nothing saying Chevy couldn’t knock the socks off the competition by making the CrossVolt look similar to the very tasty looking FNR-X concept it had on display at the Shanghai auto show this spring.
If the MPV5 was rather dowdy and Plain Jane in appearance, the FNR-X definitely has looks that sizzle. Put a plug-in hybrid powertrain in this sport utility and customers would line up around the block and down the street.In addition to the Impala — once the star of the Chevrolet bvand — and the Volt, GM is also planning to ax the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, Cadillac XTS, and Chevrolet Sonic, all of which have seen sales tumble of late as the SUV craze gathers steam.

Dennis Williams, president of the UAW says, “We are talking to [GM] right now about the products that they currently have” at underused car plants such as Hamtramck in Michigan and Lordstown in Ohio, and whether they might be replaced with newer, more popular vehicles such as SUVs and crossovers. “We are tracking it (and) we are addressing it.”
GM must “create some innovative new products” to replace slow-selling sedans “or start closing plants,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of AutoForecast Solutions. John Murphy, an auto analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that only 10 percent of the new vehicle models from GM over the next four years will be passenger cars. The rest will be trucks, SUVs, and crossovers.
Like it or not, SUVs and crossovers are the new normal in the auto business. As farsighted as Elon Musk is, he did not fully appreciate how quickly the tide would change when plans for the Model 3 were being finalized. A Model Y crossover is in the works but is 2 to 3 years away from production. Right now, Tesla doesn’t even have a factory to build the Model Y.
That could open up some space for legacy automakers to fill the gap and maybe beat Tesla to the punch with a competitive electric SUV. But if history is any guide, they will fail to seize the day and fall back on hybrids and new technologies to keep building cars with internal combustion engines a little while longer.
Legacy automakers are Elon Musk’s best friend. Despite the success of Tesla over the past 5 years, the other companies still treat electric cars like some sort of exotic beast that needs to be handled with extreme care. A plug-in SUV based on the Chevy Volt is a great idea — today. Whether it will still be a great idea in 2020 is another matter.
Source: Reuters

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Avionics Makes The World’s Coolest Retro Electric Bicycle

In the emerging electric bicycle world, there are all sorts of vehicles that blend peddle power with the convenience of an electric motor. Some are bland, some are lovely. Some are designed to carry cargo in crowded urban areas. Some resemble laid back cruisers and some are fat tire specials. But none is as drop dead gorgeous as the V1 from Avionics.

The V1 evokes a bygone era when motorcycles raced on board tracks all across America. It looks like it was designed and built 75 years ago and features many carefully thought out touches to amplify on that theme. The headlight nacelle and handgrips are made from jabota wood, also known as Brazilian cherry. Even the battery and all the electronics are encased in a beautifully crafted chest made from jabota and attached to the lower frame with authentic looking leather straps. Coupled with an oiled bronze finish on the frame, the overall effect is simply stunning.
But the V1 from Avionics is more than just a pretty face. It has the specs to go with the image of speed and power it presents. Its performance begins with a 5,00o watt brushless electric motor said to be good for 92 ft-lb of torque. That’s more twisting power than many cars built before 1990 came with from the factory.

Top speed is 36 miles per hour, which is more than many jurisdictions allow for an electric bicycle. The V1 comes with three electronically lower speed modes to ensure compliance with local ordinances. The battery is a 24 amp-hour unit that gives the V1 a range of about 75 miles. Charging time is listed as 3 hours and regenerative braking on the front wheel helps keep the battery charged.
Avionics is planning an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign in September and promises those who pre-order will be eligible for a 40% discount off the regular list price. And what is that list price?  That’s the part of the equation we don’t know yet, but it certainly won’t be at the low end of the scale. Hopefully it will be less than the equally stunning Fuoriserie, another retro electric bicycle created by Pininfarina and based on the 1936 Lancia Astura Bocca which was Mussolini’s favorite car.

Feast your eyes on the Avionics V1 in this video. Then don’t even try to pretend you don’t want one!
Source: Tree Hugger

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lucid Motors Finds Out Building An Electric Car Takes Lots Of Money

Lucid Motors is finding out the hard way that building a new electric car cost a lot of money. Short of funds, it has approached Ford about buying the company, but Ford has rebuffed Lucid’s advances, saying it has bigger fish to fry than owning the rights to the only electric car on the horizon that appears able to compete head to head with the Tesla Model S. Is this just another example of the “Not Invented Here” syndrome that has afflicted American car makers since the Coolidge administration?

Some may remember that Tesla — the mighty empire that threatens to topple old school companies left and right — once had a similar moment of angst. That’s when Elon thought of approaching Apple with an offer to buy the company. Things have improved a bit for Tesla since then.
Lucid is turning heads this week with a new video that shows its sedan, the Lucid Air, touching 235 miles per hour on a test track. That makes it one of the fastest production cars on the face of the planet. It has signed a deal for a $700,000,000 factory south of Phoenix, Arizona but has yet to begin construction.
Lucid’s chief technology, officer Peter Rawlinson, who guided the Tesla Model S to production, says, “We don’t have the money in place. That’s why we need to secure Series D. It would be irresponsible to start moving earth or start anything until we have a financial runway to execute that professionally and with absolute integrity.”
Bloomberg reports, “Electric carmaker Lucid Motors Inc. is raising a new round of financing and is also considering an outright sale after holding early-stage takeover talks with Ford Motor Co., according to people familiar with the situation. The Menlo Park, California, based firm has hired Morgan Stanley to help raise more money to pay for further development of its vehicle and a new manufacturing plant in Arizona.”
Industry sources say Lucid reached out to Ford to explore a takeover deal. Lucid reportedly talked to some high-level execs at Ford, but the deal was turned down. Maybe another time, Ford management allegedly said.
Of course, why would Ford, which has nothing resembling a compelling electric car in its portfolio and won’t for a decade or two, be interested in a car that has been fully developed and is ready for production now? Don’t be ridiculous! Not invented here, you know.
Losing Lucid would be a shame for several reasons. For one thing, Elon Musk has been begging other manufacturers to build compelling electric cars for several years now. The Lucid Air appears to be just such a “compelling” competitor.
For a second thing, if Lucid fails, that will give traditional automakers cover for their dastardly plot to appear to be building compelling electric cars while pointing out to anyone who will listen, “See? We told you. Nobody wants electric cars.”
Save a prayer for Lucid.
Source: Inside EVs

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Average Americans Can No Longer Afford Average New Cars

Some people say capitalism and alligators have much in common — both eat their young. While the rich get richer (and will get richer still if the #FakePresident has his way), ordinary schlubs who are working one, two, or sometimes three jobs to make ends meet are finding they can no longer afford to buy average new cars.

That’s according to a new study by It finds that people living in 24 of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the US cannot afford the average price of new cars, which was $33,000 in May according to Kelly Blue Book. In six of those cities, people struggle to afford cars cost half that much.
Only in Washington, DC, where the median income is over $100,000, are people able to afford a new car. But the statistics for the nation’s capitol are wildly skewed by all the millionaires in Congress and the $1,000 an hour lobbyists who grease the wheels of democracy.
“Affordability” is a relative term, of course. For purposes of the Bankrate study, analysts used the so-called 20/4/10 rule. It assumes a 20 percent down payment, a 48 month loan, and a total of of insurance and loan payments that does not exceed 10 percent of a family’s gross income.
“The [average] household can’t comfortably afford to buy a new vehicle,” said Claes Bell, a analyst. “That means a lot of households are overextending themselves on car costs, and that can potentially crowd out other priorities such as saving for retirement.”

“This issue of affordability isn’t just about the price of cars. It’s about the stagnation of wages,” Bell said. “Car costs are not rising all that quickly over time, but things like health care and college costs are going up and wages aren’t [keeping up]. Budgets are being stretched.”
“People should prepare for a car purchase by saving for a down payment,” Bell said. “Sometimes people impulsively go to a car lot and get sold on buying a new car. But if they don’t have a sufficient down payment saved, it will be hard to fit the payment into their budget.”
The total of auto loan indebtedness now stands at $1.2 trillion — about 10% of all consumer debt according to the Federal Reserve. Late payments on car loans is rising. Nearly 4% were delinquent at the end of March according to data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
“People fall in love with cars they can’t afford, and that’s how they get in trouble,” said John Gajkowski, a certified financial planner and co-founder of Money Managers Financial Group.
Capitalism assumes constant growth — a model that is inherently unsustainable. Real wages for workers have been falling slowly but surely in America for 40 years. The cost of living continues its upward climb while globalization forces American workers to compete with the low paid labor in other parts of the world.
Car makers are subsidizing sales with low interest rates and extended term loans. On some high end models, it is now possible to get loans that extend out to 96 months or more. But people seldom keep a car that long, which means they find themselves owing more than their car is worth when it comes time to go car shopping again. It’s a vicious circle that is not likely to end well for manufacturers or consumers.
Source: CNBC

Monday, July 17, 2017

Volkswagen I.D. Will Cost Less Than Tesla Model 3

Volkswagen is peddling as fast as it can to transition from emissions spewing diesels to zero emissions electric cars. While it is scrounging together the cash to pay tens of billions of dollars in fines resulting from its diesel cheating scheme, it is also aiming to become the world’s leading electric car producer. The Volkswagen I.D. will be the first offering from VW’s new electric car brand.

Will Cost Less Than Tesla Model 3

The Volkswagen I.D. will have a range of 250 to 370 miles (knock off ~20% for EPA equivalents) and cost thousands less than the Tesla Model 3, the company claims. In terms of size, the I.D. will be similar to the Volkswagen Golf and, like that car, will be a 5 door hatchback design. The differing range claims indicate buyers may have a choice of batteries depending on their needs and budget.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told the press this week he expects the top version of the I.D. to sell for no more than €30,000 — about $34,500 at today’s exchange rate. Entry-level versions could be up to $7,000 less. “We get a vehicle with the exterior dimensions of the Golf … the abilities of a Tesla … at the price of a diesel,” he said.
If Volkswagen can deliver an electric car with 200+ miles of range, room for 5, and a hatchback for around $28,000, it better be prepared to build lots of them. At those prices, the I.D. would be competitive with some of the best-selling conventional cars in the world, especially after incentives are figured in. Tesla may have a better product, but in the mass market, the three most important considerations have been and always will be — the price, the price, and the price.

Volkswagen I.D. Built On MEB Modular Platform

Speaking at the Shanghai auto show earlier this year, Christian Senger, the head of Volkswagen’s electric car project, told reporters the company has made “huge progress” in reducing production costs of its all-electric vehicles, thanks in large part to its new MEB modular electric car platform. “Offering our electric cars for prices similar to combustion engine vehicles really is a game changer,” said Senger. “We’re using the need to step from traditional combustion engine cars to reinvent the VW brand.”
Volkswageen I.D. Production schedule
According to a slide leaked from a recent Volkswagen dealers meeting and published on Dutch website,  the company plans on introducing 5 electric cars based on the MEB architecture between 2019 and 2022. The I.D. is apparently for European customers only, but that slide may not tell the whole story.
A slightly larger crossover vehicle called the I.D. Cross is slated for Europe and China. Two other electric cars — the I.D. Lounge and the I.D. AEROe — are bound for US customers. Finally, the 21st century version of 1960s funk — the much anticipated I.D. Buzz minibus — will arrive in 2022. The Lounge appears to be a crossover vehicle while the AEROe looks like a low slung sports car that may be similar to the iconic Tesla Roadster.

High-Power Charging Network Due In 2018

At an automobile conference in Munich last week, VW chief strategist Thomas Sedran told the audience that the European superfast charging network being developed by Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, and Ford is coming along well. The first superfast charger is scheduled for installation next year, according to German trade source Automobil Produktion, Porsche just installed one of these 350 kW charging stations outside its new regional office in Berlin. The Porsche charger can be used by Tesla drivers with an adapter.
About 400 superfast charging stations will be installed first along main European travel corridors. They will be capable of up to 350 kW of charging power, which is triple Tesla’s current max of 120 kW, and they will use the CCS plug. “2018 will be the first fast loader. This makes it possible for the electric car to travel without worries on holiday,” Sedran said.
The CCS standard does not interface with Tesla’s proprietary charging standard at this time, but Tesla did join the CCS consortium last year, an indication that a move to standardized charging procedures in Europe — and possibly the US — is underway in the background. If Tesla and CCS join forces, it could spell the end of the CHAdeMO system used by most Japanese manufacturers. While that might be bad news for CHAdeMO fans, having uniform charging standards could give a big boost to the acceptance of electric cars by mainstream buyers.

Friday, July 14, 2017


Two turbo-fours, a hybrid, and a 10-speed automatic transmission debut

The more upscale 2018 Honda Accord enters the world with a new powertrain lineup, which drops the V-6 for new turbocharged four-cylinders, a new hybrid system, and a 10-speed transmission.
The all-new 2018 Accord goes on sale this fall with the hybrid to follow in the winter. The world debut today in Detroit and Los Angeles reveals a stylish and sportier 10th generation of the midsize sedan. There will not be a coupe, a body style that only accounted for about 4 percent of sales, said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of the Automobile Division of American Honda. He does not think Honda will lose those coupe sales. “We put coupe goodness in the sedan.”
Replacing the Accord is a big deal, given its history of being a top-selling midsize sedan—a perpetual second place to the Toyota Camrybut often first when it comes to sales to retail customers, not including rental and corporate fleets.
But Honda also must reconcile that the Accord resides in a segment in decline as consumers continue to flock to crossovers over sedans. The Accord is now No. 3 in Honda sales, trailing the compact CR-V crossover and the recently redesigned Civic sedan, coupe, and hatchback line. Conrad said he expects the CR-V will end the year as Honda’s best seller but he thinks the Accord’s new styling will ensure it continues to sell about 350,000 a year in the U.S., its biggest market, and it might entice buyers back to the sedan market which has not had a lot of new entries to re-energize it in recent years. “I think the new product will make people stop and take a look,” he said. And while it won’t stop the shrinking of the segment, “we might be able to slow it down a bit.”
All Accords, including the new hybrid, will be made in Marysville, Ohio. The engines and continuously variable transmission also come from Ohio, and the 10-speed transmission is made in Georgia.
The lineup has two all-new direct-injection turbocharged engines. The 1.5-liter base engine generates 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, up from 185 hp and 181 lb-ft, and is mated to a continuously variable transmission. A short-throw, six-speed manual is available on the Sport trim.
Whereas Toyota is sticking with an optional V-6 engine for its upmarket Camry, Honda is moving to a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. Derived from the unit in the new Civic Type R, the turbo-four generates 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, replacing the outgoing 278-hp 3.5-liter V-6 that accounted for 15-20 percent of sales. It is tuned for low-end torque and does not require premium fuel. The engine is paired with the first 10-speed automatic in a front-drive car and is also available with the six-speed manual transmission on the Sport trim. Conrad said currently about 4 percent of buyers opt for a manual and one in five Sport trim buyers choose it.
The hybrid uses a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle engine and has electric motors that are the first to use magnets containing no heavy rare earth metals. The new power unit with the battery pack is now under the rear floor instead of in the trunk, freeing more cargo room.
There are no plans for a plug-in hybrid, Conrad said, noting the Clarity plug-in is coming this fall.
The car has a new MacPherson strut front suspension for better ride and handling; it also has a new multilink rear suspension. New for 2018, the Accord gets its first adaptive damper system on the Touring to adjust shock absorber damping force every 1/500 of a second.
It is not offered with all-wheel drive. Conrad said that would have compromised the platform and interior space. Honda has many other AWD-equipped vehicles to choose from.
The 2018 Accord is wider, shorter, and lower, but the wheelbase has grown by 2.16 inches for increased interior space. It is also 110 to 176 pounds lighter with a more rigid body structure and new chassis.
Although the wheelbase is longer, the overall length is 0.39 inch shorter, pushing the wheels farther toward the corners. The car is 0.39 inch wider with a wider wheel track, the height has dropped 0.6 inch, and occupants sit lower in the car, so there is still ample headroom and shoulder room. Rear seats have been pushed back for an extra 1.9 inches of legroom. The overall passenger volume of 105.7 cubic feet is an increase of 2.5 cubic feet, and there is more trunk space.
“This is unquestionably the most dramatic remake of the Accord we’ve ever done,” Conrad said.
The design goal was to give the car a more athletic stance with a low and wide body, more raked windshield, short overhang, low hood, large, more angled greenhouse, and narrow roof pillars, as well as sculpted body sides and an upswept decklid. The result is a cleaner, simpler look—and it is 3 percent more dynamic. Designers gave it a bolder and more upright front fascia. It retains the chrome wing grille bookmarked by LED headlights and foglights. In the back are LED taillights and duel exhaust ports.
Inside there is a new soft-touch instrument panel in a three-tier design, as well as a new steering wheel with thumb rests and paddle shifters. The driver’s seat has 12-way adjustment, and the front seats can be heated and cooled.
There is a new infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that retains buttons for volume and tuning—in response to critics of the lack of a redundant knobs on the Honda Civic. The Accord has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a number of apps. There is also a 7.0-inch display in front of the driver. The Touring trims of the 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter models have a new 6.0-inch head-up display.
The next generation of HondaLink telematics offers services such as emergency roadside assistance, remote locking/unlocking and engine start, stolen-vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics, and geofencing.
There is wireless device charging, automatic Bluetooth phone pairing with a single tap, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates, as well as a number of audio system options and USB charging ports.
Honda Sensing technology—a suite of safety systems—is standard on all models and, importantly, on all trim levels, including base models. The automaker has also added new safety driver-assistance and connected-car features. Included are collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, cross-traffic monitoring, and driver-awareness monitoring.
The 1.5-liter Accord will be available in six trims: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi, and Touring. The 2.0-liter model has four trims available: Sport, EX-L, EX-L Navi, and Touring. And the new Accord Hybrid will be available in five trims: Hybrid, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi, and Touring.
Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date. Conrad said it must be competitive in a “super heated market where everyone is fighting for sales and share.”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sono Motors Plans Solar Powered Car Reveal On July 27

What has room for six passengers, an all electric range of up to 155 miles, and a body covered in solar panels that can add as many as 18 miles of driving a day from sunlight? That would be the Sono Motors Sion, an innovative solar powered car from a team of German entrepreneurs that is scheduled to have its world debut on July 27.

The Sion project was able to move forward thanks to an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign last year that raised over a half million dollars. More than 1,000 people have participated so far. The car will have two versions. The Urban comes with a 14.4 kilowatt-hour battery pack. It has a range of about 75 miles and will cost $13,200. The Extender version has a 30 kilowatt-hour battery and a range of 155 miles. Its target price is $17,600. Neither price includes the battery. Like the Renault Zoe, customers will either buy the battery separately or lease it. The leasing option gives owners the flexibility to upgrade the battery later as improvements in battery technology become available.
The hood, roof and rear hatch of the Sion are covered with monocrystalline silicon cells that are 21% efficient. On a sunny day, they can generate enough electricity to add 18 miles of range. The solar cells are eight millimeters thick and embedded in a polycarbonate layer that is shatterproof, weather resistant and light in weight. The Sion can also be 80% charged using an AC outlet in about 30 minutes, according to company claims. No DC charging option is available. The car also comes with an outlet that can power electronic devices.
Inside, all the seats of the five door hatchback fold flat, offering multiple configurations for carrying passengers and cargo. There is a 10 inch center display and smartphone connectivity via wifi or Bluetooth. The ventilation system is called breSono and incorporates a dollop of moss, which is said to act as a natural filter when an electrical charge is applied.
The company will offer an online maintenance and repair system it calls reSono. It allows owners to order parts online and comes with a video that shows them how to install the parts when they arrive.  Or they can take the car and the parts to any local auto repair shop facility to get them installed.
Test drives will be available starting in September with production beginning next year. Sono is emulating the approach used by DHL with its electric delivery vans. It is sourcing most of the components to build its cars from existing OEM suppliers so it can concentrate on getting the design right and incorporating suggestions from its online community into the final product. The Sion is perhaps a bit small for American customers but it should appeal strongly to Europeans who live in crowded cities where parking is at a premium.
Source: Hybrid Cars

Expanded Tesla Service Network To Meet The Needs Of Model 3 Owners

100 new service centers, 1,400 new technicians, 350 new mobile service trucks — that’s the Tesla plan to expand its service capabilities to satisfy the needs of its customers as it begins production of the Model 3, its first mass-market car — or so it hopes.
Tesla does business like no other car company and that applies to its service operations as well. Tesla says it has analyzed the data from Model 3 reservation holders to decide where to base those new service vans. The higher the density of Tesla owners, the more likely it is a mobile service facility will be nearby.
Tesla service center
The company boasts that 90% of all service related issues can be diagnosed remotely while a car sits in its owner’s garage. If a problem is found, it can be corrected wirelessly as well, often with a simple software update. When actual service is required, such as scheduled maintenance, Tesla says its service centers utilize an optimized workflow model that makes the process 4 times faster than a normal repair facility while requiring 3 times less space.
Tesla has come in for some criticism from its customers — who are perhaps the most loyal in the entire automobile business, so they are least likely to complain — that getting appointments at existing Tesla service centers is often a slow process with long wait times. After all, not everything can be fixed over the internet. In addition, some customers live hours away from the nearest service facility.
To address those concerns, Tesla is adding 350 mobile service vans that can come to the customer instead of the customer coming to a service center. In a video released by Tesla yesterday, a technician is shown changing a tire on the side of the road using one such service van. Even Elon must see the fine irony of using a truck with an internal combustion engine to come to the aid of an electric car. No doubt, he has a plan to address that shortcoming soon.
The Tesla video contains other information designed to soothe any jitters new customers may have about getting their cars serviced. The company is about to increase production by a factor of five. If all goes as planned — and things in the world of Musk usually do, eventually — over the next 12 months, the company will go from building about 100,000 cars a year to 500,000 cars a year. Elon has said his company will be building “millions” of cars a year in a few years time.
Servicing all those cars will put more stress on a service network that is already stretched to its limits in many parts of the world. Going forward, Tesla owners will be able to schedule service appointments directly from their cars via their touchscreens. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have to wait days, weeks, or months for one as some do now. Nor does the company offer any guidance about how much mobile service might cost. Don’t expect it to be free.
Tesla says its service operation is not intended to be a major source of income to the company — another departure from business as usual in the industry. At traditional dealerships, the service department is often the only part of the business that makes money. Tesla’s efforts to disrupt the auto industry status quo from top to bottom continues unabated.

Experimental Electrode Designs May Reduce Charging Times From Hours To Minutes

Researchers at Drexel University School of Engineering claim they have created a new highly conductive two dimensional material they call MXene that will permit faster battery charging. Led by professor Yuri Gogotsi, the team says electrodes made from MXene will allow ordinary batteries to charge as fast as supercapacitors but with the energy storage potential of a conventional battery.

“This paper refutes the widely accepted dogma that chemical charge storage, used in batteries and pseudocapacitors, is always much slower than physical storage used in electrical double-layer capacitors, also known as supercapacitors,” Gogotsi says. “We demonstrate charging of thin MXene electrodes in tens of milliseconds. This is enabled by very high electronic conductivity of MXene. This paves the way to development of ultrafast energy storage devices than can be charged and discharged within seconds, but store much more energy than conventional supercapacitors.”
Put simply, MXene has more places to store electrons than the electrodes in use today. More electron storage equals more electrical energy stored and transmitted. The team has recently published its work in the journal Nature Energy. Working with professors Patrice Simon and Zifeng Lin at the Universit√© Paul Sabatier in France, the team developed a hydrogel electrode with greater volumetric performance, an important measure of a battery’s ability to store energy.
“In traditional batteries and supercapacitors, ions have a tortuous path toward charge storage ports, which not only slows down everything, but it also creates a situation where very few ions actually reach their destination at fast charging rates,” says Maria Lukatskaya, the lead author on the paper. “The ideal electrode architecture would be something like ions moving to the ports via multi-lane, high-speed highways instead of taking single lane roads. Our macro-porous electrode design achieves this goal, which allows for rapid charging — on the order of a few seconds or less.”
The primary advantage of MXene electrodes is their superior conductivity, which is equivalent to metals such as copper and aluminum. MXene was first created in Drexel labs in 2011 and researchers have been exploring its many and varied uses ever since — from energy storage to electromagnetic radiation shielding and water filtration.
“If we start using low dimensional and electronically conducting materials as battery electrodes, we can make batteries working much, much faster than today,” Gogotsi said. “Eventually, appreciation of this fact will lead us to car, laptop and cell-phone batteries capable of charging at much higher rates — seconds or minutes rather than hours.”
Henrik Fisker is also going down a similar path. He says his latest car, the Fisker EMotion, will use a proprietary system that is similar to a supercapacitor that will permit the car to have a 400 mile range and a 9 minute recharge time. Sitting idle waiting for an electric car to charge may be one of the biggest road blocks to mainstream acceptance of EVs.
Even Tesla, which has the largest high power charging network in the world, requires its drivers to wait 30 minutes of more to charge their batteries while travelling away from home. If someone could cut that wait time to a few minutes, the impact on the electric car market would be enormous.
The usual caveats apply. Researchers around the world on working on improvements that will make EV batteries, lighter, more energy dense, and less expensive while slashing charging times. Breakthroughs in battery technology are announced almost daily. But getting new tech out of the lab and into the real world is often fraught with danger.
More startups fail than succeed. So for the moment, this announcement from Drexel must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. But if the promise shown in the Drexel lab can translate to reality? It’s game over for fossil fueled vehicles.
Source and photo credit: Drexel University via Science Daily