Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tesla Developing Proprietary Chip For Autonomous Driving Use

When Tesla CEO Elon Musk gets an idea into his head, he is like a dog with a bone. “Single minded” does not begin to describe his determination to get what he wants. Sometimes, that narrow focus can be draining for those working with him.

Musk made a promise earlier this year that Tesla automobiles would be fully autonomous within two years. Shortly thereafter, Chris Lattner, a former superstar tech guru at Apple, severed his relationship with the company. Lattner had been in charge of the autonomous driving program since Sterling Anderson left the company at the end of 2016.
In a statement, Lattner said, “In the end, Elon and I agreed that he and I did not work well together and that I should leave, so I did.” He went on to say that the Autopilot team was involved in a stressful transition period and was struggling with attrition. The company began equipping all its cars with an all new collection of radar, camera, and ultrasound sensors — a package known as Hardware 2 — in October of last year.
Musk promised customers the HW 2 equipped cars would have all the self driving capabilities of older cars with the Hardware 1 package by the end of 2016. In fact, it took a lot longer than that. It was not until Consumer Reports downgraded the Model S because its emergency forward braking system was not yet fully operational that Tesla finally made good on its promise.
Now reports have surfaced that Tesla is working on designing its own proprietary computer chip for use in its autonomous driving systems. At present, it uses an advanced supercomputer from Nvidia to provide the massive amount of computing power required to make the millions of calculations per second necessary.
But Tesla is wary of outside suppliers and likes to do as many operations as possible in house, where it can control both performance, timeliness, and price itself. And the Nvidia unit is not specifically designed solely for autonomous driving duties. The chip Tesla is said to be working on what would narrowly targeted solely for such use.
The reports suggest that Tesla is collaborating with AMD on development of the new chip, but Sanjay Jha, CEO of AMD will only confirm that his company is working with several automakers on dedicated computer chips.
The AMD connection is buttressed by the fact that Jim Keller, who previously worked for AMD, has now taken over from Chris Lattner as head of the Autopilot unit at Tesla. Tesla has also hired several other AMD engineers to work with Keller, including director Ganesh Venkataramanan, principal hardware engineer Bill McGee and system circuit design lead Dan Bailey.
Elon has proclaimed that a Tesla Model  S will leave Los Angeles, drive itself to New York City, and park, all without intervention from a human driver before the end of 2017. That suggests the 50 people assigned to the Autopilot program probably aren’t going to be spending much time with their families for a while.
Adding a layer of intrigue to the story is another report that Tesla has developed yet another collection of hardware known internally as Hardware 2.5. This goes against Musk’s claim last year that cars with HW 2 would have all the sensors needed to permit full autonomous operation once regulations and software caught up with the system’s potential.
When asked about the new hardware configuration by The Verge, a Tesla spokesperson said, “The internal name HW 2.5 is an overstatement, and instead it should be called something more like HW 2.1. This hardware set has some added computing and wiring redundancy, which very slightly improves reliability, but it does not have an additional Pascal GPU.”
The person went on to say that cars with the existing HW 2 package would be upgrade at no cost to the customer if the new configuration proved more capable in real world testing. One of the features of Tesla is that is continues to improve its cars continuously and incorporates those improvements into production cars as soon as possible, rather than waiting for annual model changes the way traditional car companies do.
Elon Musk continues to overpromise and underdeliver. In theory, that is just the opposite of how a successful company is built. But he always gets there eventually and those who maintain their faith in him are amply rewarded with some of the safest, most innovative cars available.
In the grand scheme of things, whether a Tesla drives itself cross country this year or next won’t be significant. What will be significant is that a Tesla will have done it first. Every one knows the name of the first person to walk on the moon. Few know the name of the second person to do it. Elon Musk definitely knows the importance of being firstest with the mostest.
Source: CNBC

Saturday, September 23, 2017

New York Announces Plan To Install Up To 1,000 EV Fast Charging Stations By 2020

When it comes to electric vehicles, New York mayor Bill De Blasio gets it. “The easier we make it for electric vehicles, the more manufacturers will build and the more prices will go down,” he says. “The future is electric.” And De Blasio is willing to put his money where his mouth is. On September 22, he announced that the city plans to spend $10 million to install 50 fast charging hubs in the city’s five boroughs by 2020. Each hub will have up to 20 fast charging stations.
Charging infrastructure in metropolitan areas is a matter of vital concern to city dwellers, many of whom have no access to private chargers they can use to charge their cars overnight. Tesla has recently announced a new style charger that operates on lower power (72 kW) than its traditional Supercharger equipment (125 kW) but is more compact, making it more suitable for urban installations.

The mayor managed to take a swipe at the President while announcing the new program. “New York will continue to invest in the new technologies we need to reduce our emissions, especially in the face of Trump’s abdication of leadership on climate. By helping develop the infrastructure necessary for electric vehicles, we’re going to make it easier than ever for New Yorkers to switch. This is another step towards aligning our action on climate change with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree stretch goal.”
At the present time there are only 16 fast chargers available for public use in New York. There are over 600 Level 2 chargers, but they require up to 8 hours to complete their task. New York officials are now working with utility company ConEdison to select the best location in each borough for the first fast charging hub to be constructed.
The New York initiative is laudable, but it also allows traditional car makers to snicker up their sleeves as they wait for tax payers to foot the bill for doing what Tesla has done on its own. Sadly, this sends a signal to the auto industry that if they wait long enough and drag their feet, someone else will do the heavy lifting for them. Leadership is something the traditional car companies all seem to avoid like The Plague.
Source: Inhabitat

Mercedes Expands Its Electric Car Plans For US And Chinese Markets

Mercedes is boosting its electric car investments in America and in China, reports Fortune. In the US, it builds the GLE and GLS SUV models and the GLE coupe at a factory near Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Earlier this year, it announced it would spend $1.3 billion to expand and modernize that facility, which built 310,000 vehicles in 2016.

Now Mercedes says it will invest a further $1 billion to make the Tuscaloosa plant ready to build electric cars and to build a battery factory nearby. The one million square foot battery manufacturing facility will be the fifth constructed by Mercedes worldwide. The plan is to begin the battery plant in 2018 with a target date for the start of production in 2020. The company says the expansion will create 600 new jobs in the area.
Manufacturing of electric cars, which will be sold under the EQ brand, is not expected to begin until 2021 at the earliest. While the new investment in America can be seen as a response to the growing demand for Tesla automobiles, the California company says it will have its own midsize electric SUV — the Model Y — on sale by 2020. Mercedes will begin producing its first electric SUV, the EQC, at its factory in Bremen, Germany, in 2019. Mercedes says all its cars will have an electric motor by 2022 — although, that statement includes hybrid and plug-in hybrid models as well as battery electric vehicles.
At the same time, Mercedes and BYD are looking to expand their partnership, which builds electric cars for the Chinese market under the Denza brand according to a report by Bloomberg. The two companies have been working together since 2012. BYD, partially backed by Warren Buffett, is currently China’s electric car sales leader. It has delivered nearly 50,000 EVs so far this year while General Motors has delivered fewer than 1,000.
China is pushing hard to convert its fleet of automobiles to electrics by 2030. It currently has the most rigorous EV quota system in the world. While the automakers all agree that China’s timetable for going all electric is far too aggressive, the fact is that China’s new car market — at nearly 25 million vehicles a year — is simply too large and too lucrative to give up on.
As China goes, so will the rest of the world go. Carmakers will need to spread the development costs of electric cars across all markets in order to continue being profitable in the future when electric cars go mainstream.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ten Global Companies Commit To 100% Electric Vehicles

A group of new big-name businesses including Baidu, IKEA, and Vattenfall have this week launched EV100, the first initiative of its kind to fast-track the uptake of electric vehicles and accompanying infrastructure.
Following in the wake of initiatives such as RE100 and EP100, the newest initiative to focus on helping businesses commit to 100% targets to help the environment (EV100) launched in partnership with The Climate Group this week at Climate Week NYC. The launch includes 10 founding members — Baidu, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Heathrow Airport, HP Inc., IKEA Group, LeasePlan, METRO AG, PG&E, Unilever, and Vattenfall. Where RE100 seeks to accelerate the adoption of 100% renewable energy targets, and EP100 aims to increase the number of companies doubling their energy productivity, EV100 is looking to bring together companies committed to accelerating the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).
electric vehiclesImage via ecartestdrives
Members of EV100 will each commit to transitioning from diesel and petrol vehicles to electric vehicles, and installing battery charging infrastructure by 2030. The aim of EV100 further seeks to set out timetables for these transitions, which will help drive massive rollouts, reduce costs, and make electric cars more affordable more quickly for everyone around the world.
“We want to make electric transport the new normal,” explained Helen Clarkson, CEO, The Climate Group. “There are two fundamental problems to be addressed. Transport is still the fastest growing area of carbon emissions, as the shift to electric vehicles is not happening fast enough; and mass system change, even with Government intervention, needs much greater customer demand.
“EV100 will use companies’ collective global buying power and influence on employees and customers to build demand and cut costs. The members being announced today see the business logic in leading a faster transition and addressing local air quality issues in their markets. They are setting a competitive challenge to the auto industry to deliver more EVs, sooner and at lower cost.”
The news comes only a day after The Climate Group announced that its premiere campaign, RE100, had added 4 new companies, bringing the number of companies committed to 100% renewable energy targets up to 106. Among the companies signing up to transition their vehicle fleets to electric is Swedish power company and wind energy giant Vattenfall.
“Vattenfall delivers solutions for sustainable and climate smarter living for customers and citizens,” said Magnus Hall, Vattenfall’s president and CEO. “Climate change is one of our biggest challenges so we are very happy to join the EV100 initiative as electrical vehicles can make a significant contribution in reducing carbon emissions.”
Specifically, Vattenfall pledged in January of this year to replace all its passenger and light commercial vehicles in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany to electric alternatives.
“We will replace the whole 3500 car fleet to EV in the coming five years,” explained Hall. “With the decision we do not only contribute to reducing CO2-emissions in Europe, we also set an example for other companies. We work with our customers to deploy charging infrastructure and building northern Europe’s biggest connected charging network, InCharge.”

Shanghai Home To World’s Largest Tesla Supercharger Facility

China is a huge market for Tesla and it has committed to having 1,000 Superchargers installed and operating within the country by the end of 2017 to support its sales efforts there. From the evidence supplied by a new video uploaded to YouTube by German source TeslaMag, somewhere between 40 and 60 of those Superchargers will be located in the parking garage below the Lilacs International Commercial Center in Shanghai.

They won’t be the new compact 72 kW chargers Tesla announced just last week. Looking at the video, these appear to be Tesla’s conventional chargers rated at 125 kW of power. A Tesla spokesperson has confirmed to the folks at Teslarati that installation of the charging equipment is underway but declined to give any further details until after the process is complete. On Reddit, the new location is being referred to as a “superstation” that will serve as an important link for those travelling between Beijing and Hong Kong.
At the present time, the largest Tesla Supercharger facility is located in Nebbenes, Norway, a rural town 40 miles outside Oslo. It features 20 stalls. Several similar installations are underway in the US, particularly in California as Tesla races to fulfill its promise to have 10,000 Superchargers in operation worldwide by the end of 2017.
The Tesla Supercharger network is one of the most powerful sales tools for the Silicon Valley startup, as many of its competitors are sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to take the issue of electric car charging infrastructure seriously. Porsche’s new electric 4 door sedan is said to be capable of an 80% recharge in only 15 minutes using its proprietary 800 volt charging equipment. The problem is, there are fewer of those than there are real FabergĂ© eggs.
When stock analysts rave about how much Tesla stock will be worth in the future, they often overlook the importance of the Supercharger network the company has created and continues to expand aggressively. That infrastructure, though, is what allows Tesla to sign up hundreds of thousands of new customers for its automobiles when other companies are running around complaining that no one wants to buy electric cars.
No. What people don’t want is to buy electric cars if there is no convenient way to recharge them away from home. That’s the simple fact that most auto company executives can’t seen to grasp.
Source: Teslarati

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cruise Claims First Production Ready Self Driving Car Title

Alright, all you Teslaholics. Settle down. We all know that every Tesla built since October 2016 is capable of full Level 5 self driving operation. But that hasn’t stopped Cruise Automation, the San  Francisco based autonomous car startup purchased outright by General Motors last year, from claiming it has the world’s first production ready self driving car. How can they make such an outrageous claim? Read on.
The car Cruise Automoation is crowing about is a modified version of the Chevy Bolt. Last week, its CEO Kyle Vogt told the press, “Today, we’re unveiling the world’s first mass-producible car designed to operate without a driver. This isn’t just a concept design — it has airbags, crumple zones, and comfortable seats. It’s assembled in a high volume assembly plant capable of producing 100,000’s of vehicles per year, and we’d like to keep that plant busy.”

What does “production ready” mean? According to Cruise, it means the third generation Autonomous Chevrolet Bolt has all of the hardware and sensors needed for full autonomy but can be built on a conventional General Motors assembly line using The General’s standard mass production techniques.
Doug Park, GM vice president for autonomous technology, says the autonomous car requires changes to the electrical system, redundant steering and braking systems, plus the installation of additional sensors and different safety systems. For an idea of the amount of new pieces needed to make the cars capable of driving themselves, see the illustration below.

Previous iterations of the self driving Bolt were hand built after the the normal production process was complete. That meant the company spent most of its time tracking down electrical gremlins and making repairs instead of accumulating test miles. “Hand building a few hundred complex cars is tortuous and expensive, but it’s technically possible. People have done it. But things start to fall apart beyond that,” Vogt says.
“Achieving massive scale with a low defect rate and high reliability is ridiculously hard,” he adds, echoing what Elon Musk has said about auto manufacturing. “Cars are big, heavy, and have tens of thousands of parts. So you really need a well-run assembly plant to build something that works, such as the billion dollar plant we’re using in Lake Orion.
The complexity of modern automobiles is something Tesla is working hard to address. The new Model 3 has far more parts than the Model S or Model X and the upcoming Model Y will have fewer still. It’s all part of Tesla’s drive to simplify the manufacturing process.
Vogt goes on to say that just in time production has also sped up development of the car. The current model is the third in only 14 months, due largely to the ability to observe a problem in the field and implement an in-plant fix the same day.
Current regulations still require a human driver behind the wheel, but once the software and regulations catch up, Cruise says it is ready for to begin production of driverless car. It anticipates sales to ride hailing and ride sharing fleets first with sales to individual consumers following shortly thereafter.
Cruise may have made great strides in creating a production ready self driving car, but it still has a long way to go before it makes one that is visually appealing. Tesla deserves lots of credit for integrating its autonomous driving systems seamlessly into its cars, so they don’t look like refugees from the Lost In Space sound stage.
Source: TechCrunch

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Battery Swapping Is Back On The Agenda At Tesla

Back at the dawn of the electric car era, when cars like the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, and Tesla Model S were just starting to get noticed, a lot of people thought battery swapping instead of battery charging might be the way to go. The logic was sound. If you could swap out a discharged battery and replace it with a fully charged one in a few minutes, that would be better than hanging out at a service area on the interstate for an hour or so, waiting for fresh electrons to insinuate themselves into your battery pack, wouldn’t it?

Tesla explored battery swapping briefly, then decided it did not make economic sense and dropped the whole idea after building one facility in Silicon Valley. Now, the idea is back. A patent application dated September 14 describes a system that would raise a vehicle in the air with one set of hydraulic lifts while another inboard lift would drop the battery pack and replace it with a fully charged unit. Here is what the patent abstract says:
A system for exchanging an electrical energy storage system (EESS) of an electric vehicle includes. An EESS station is configured to position an electric vehicle in x and y directions. A vehicle lift raises the electric vehicle to a predetermined height. An EESS lift supports and lowers the EESS and replaces the EESS with a differing EESS. The vehicle lift may be an inboard lift and the EESS lift may be an outboard lift. The system may also include one or more rollers configured to guide the electric vehicle. The system may include a horizontal door having at least one tube positioned thereon for guiding the electric vehicle and/or at least one vehicle chock for positioning the electric vehicle in at least one of the x and y directions. The vehicle lift may include lifting arms to engage jack pads of the electric vehicle.
Such systems could be installed at service stations or even incorporated into a mobile rig. While the patent speaks about using the battery swapping system for  Model S and Model X vehicles, Elon Musk is on record as saying that if Tesla decided to pursue the idea, it would apply to commercial vehicles as well, according to TechCrunch.
Gee, Tesla doesn’t make any commercial vehicles does it? Oh wait. It’s going to take the wraps off the Tesla Semi on October 26, isn’t it? Hmmm, could there be a connection?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mercedes Unveils eCanter Electric Truck, Partners With StoreDot On Fast Charging Batteries

Daimler has unveiled its Fuso branded eCanter electric truck in Manhattan. Mitsubishi Fuso is part of the Daimler Truck Group, along with Freightliner and Mercedes Benz. The eCanter electric light duty delivery truck has been under development for several years and will be manufactured in Tramagal, Portugal. It goes on sale in the US, Europe, and Japan starting later this year, according to a company press release.
Fuso eCanter electric truck

Fuso eCanter Electric Truck

The Fuso eCanter has a range of 100 kilometers and a load capacity up to three and a half tons depending on body type and usage. Its electric powertrain consists of six 420 volt lithium ion battery rated at 13.8 kWh each. In comparison with a conventional diesel truck, its projected operating costs are at least $1,000 less for every 6,000 miles traveled. Seven Eleven Corporation has already agreed to add 25 of the new electric delivery vans to its fleet in Japan and UPS says it will add them to its US fleet of sustainable vehicles.
Marc Llistosella, head of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation and Daimler Trucks Asia says, “In times when everybody is talking about electric trucks, we are the first to actually commercialize a series produced all electric truck. Having a long history in alternative drivetrains, we are proud to step into this new era. Our FUSO eCanter comes with years of customer testing, and the assurance of parts, services, and warranty through our global FUSO dealership network.”
“Our new FUSO eCanter now addresses the increasing global deand for products to meet and exceed high CO2 emission standards. It offers an attractive and cost-effective alternative to combustion engines and makes electric trucks key to the future of inner city distribution”, Llistosella added.

StoreDot Partnership

The introduction of the eCanter is only part of the good news coming from Daimler regarding electric trucks this week. It has also partnered Israeli startup StoreDot, which claims it has created a battery like the ones needed for electric trucks that can be recharged in as little as 5 minutes. StoreDot has recently completed a funding round which raised $60 million, thanks in large part by leadership from Daimler according to Venture Beat.
StoreDot’s FlashBattery technology is uniquely suited for commercial vehicles that start and stop repeatedly during daily use because the system maximizes the benefits of regenerative braking. That means a vehicle can travel further before it needs recharging.
Dr. Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot, says, “Having Daimler, a world leader in the automotive field, as a strategic partner is of significant value to StoreDot. It will accelerate the completion of our development process and the introduction of FlashBattery to the market. Together with Daimler teams, we create synergies that optimize the characteristics of our innovative solutions with the requirements of the electric vehicles of the future.”
If StoreDot can make 5 minute charging the norm, the electric car and truck revolution will be complete.

Audi Brings Level 4 And Level 5 Autonomous Concepts To Frankfurt

Audi has never been about building automobiles for the hoi polloi. That’s what corporate cousins Volkswagen and SEAT are for. It is focused on building premium transportation for folks of wealth and taste. Lately, it has been thinking about how to do that in the car market of the future, which will feature autonomous electric cars that drive themselves most if not all the time.

Audi Elaine Autonomous Concept

At this year’s Frankfurt auto show, Audi is showcasing two such concept cars — the Aicon, a Level 5 autonomous car with not pedals and no steering wheel, and Elaine, a refreshed version of the e-tron Sportback electric SUV that graced the Audi podium at the Shanghai auto show earlier this year. It is content with Level 4 autonomy, which is more likely to see use on public roads sooner.
“To get to full autonomy, auto innovators will need to be transparent about what automated technologies can and cannot do, and the timeline for their availability. Audi has been and will remain at the forefront of this technology, leading the transformation in mobility to bring greater safety to our roads, improve system-wide efficiency, and offer greater mobility.” Audi says in a press release from the Frankfurt show.
Since Shanghai, Audi has added a more powerful processor and upgraded the onboard sensors. The autonomous concept is now able to drive hands free at speeds between 35 and 80 miles per hour and can change lanes on its own, freeing the driver to attend to more important tasks like taking selfies along the way or checking e-mail. If drivers are willing to wear a fitness tracker, the car can accurately keep track of how tired or stressed they are. An in cabin display can guide them in breathing exercises and the seats can be configured to massage passengers to the beat of music. Oh, happy days.
The Audi Elaine concept features a 429 horsepower electric powertrain good for 0 to 100 kph sprints in 4.5 seconds. It has a 95 kWh battery and a 311 miles range in the New European Drive Cycle. Subtract about 30% to get an idea what its EPA range will be. Self parking and wireless charging are part of the package. Audi says the car will be able to park itself, charge the battery, or maybe visit a car wash independently after the owner exits the vehicle. Life is good, huh?

Audi Aicon Autonomous Concept

Audi’s Aicon concept is where the real action is at Frankfurt, though. This car is like a Google car that is all grown up. It never needs a hand on the wheel or a stab on the brakes as it lacks any controls whatsoever. The Aicon is designed for smooth, effortless high speed touring. Since the car will virtually eliminate collisions, passengers won’t need to wear seat belts, Audi claims, leaving them free to play Parcheesi or compose sonatas on their smartphones.
The car has four electric motors that produce a total of 350 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. Electronically controlled active suspension at all four wheels and torque vectoring mean the Audi Aicon can traverse any kind of road in any kind of weather. Lightweight construction and advanced aerodynamics should allow the car to travel up to 500 (NEDC) miles on a single battery charge.The batteries operate on 800 volts and can be charged in less than 30 minutes. Wireless charging is also built in to the package.
The Aicon is no compact car. Its wheelbase is more than 9 inches longer than the Audi A8L, the largest car Audi currently makes. Interior roominess is emphasized as is an aggressive exterior that speaks of power and grace beneath its sculpted flanks. On dark nights, a mini-drone detaches from the car to guide passengers to the door at their destination.

The Audi Aicon is a technological tour de force, one that cossets is occupants in sumptuous surroundings whilst going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. Whether the world of automobiles in the future will need a car that makes such conspicuous consumption possible remains to be seen. Such splendiferousness seems quaintly at odds with the mundane tasks of commuting to work and buying groceries, but if the need exists, Audi has every intention filling it.
It’s good to know that opulence will not become outmoded as the world transitions to self driving electric automobiles that whoosh us quietly and serenely about as we perform our appointed tasks each day.

Friday, September 15, 2017

“Unreal” Tesla Semi Set For October 26 Unveiling

The Tesla Semi reveal will be late. I know, I know. Tesla and Elon Musk are about to miss another self imposed deadline. Is anyone really surprised? The truth is, Musk gets more mileage out of missing deadlines — publicity wise — than most companies get by meeting them. That’s probably because Musk’s targets are always designed to “reach the unreachable stars” when others set their goals as low as possible.

The Tesla Semi, the Class 8 electric truck the company has been tweeting about for over a year, was supposed to be introduced to the public sometime in September. But Elon just tweeted that October 26 is now the scheduled date and even that is tentative. The reveal will take place in Hawthorne, California, where SpaceX has its headquarters. Musk describes the Tesla Semi in typically hyperbolic terms. It’s “unreal,” he modestly proclaims.
Tesla Semi truck unveil & test ride tentatively scheduled for Oct 26th in Hawthorne. Worth seeing this beast in person. It's unreal.
What is unreal about it? Well, that’s part of Musk’s charm, isn’t it, to keep us on tenterhooks, salivating for more information? We know he said at the Tesla annual shareholders meeting earlier this year that the company has been working with its “biggest customers” on the design of the Semi, so they already know what it will be. “They want to know how many can they buy and how soon,” he said.
Then he added this tantalizer. He said he “really recommends” people come to the unveiling event if at all possible because “maybe there is a little more than we are saying here.” What does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine.
What we do know is that Morgan Stanley analysts Ravi Shanker and Adam Jonas believe the Tesla Semi will be the biggest disruptor of the trucking industry since the introduction of air brakes. Tesla hasn’t said anything about recharging their beast, but Shanker and Jonas suggest that battery swapping will be part of the package, with swapping stations costing about $500,000 each. The tractor is assumed to have a range of between 200 and 300 miles on a single battery charge.
Don’t clear your schedule for October 26 quite yet. Musk and Tesla have a habit of pushing things back, then pushing them back some more. But the excitement is building. Other companies are jumping into the electric truck swim. Cummins just announced it has developed its own electric powertrain for Class 7 short range trucks. BYD, WrightSpeed, and  Motiv Power also want in on the action.
Which is a good thing. Diesel emissions are a significant proportion of total emissions, including particulates, from the transportation sector. The sooner electric trucks go mainstream, the sooner we will all be able to breathe a little easier.

Source: CNBC

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Compact Tesla Supercharger Coming For Urban Areas

Charging infrastructure for urban areas is a problem. With open land at a premium in congested cities, finding room to install chargers can be a challenge. Tesla is aware of the issue and, as usual, is being proactive in its response. On September 11, Tesla posted on its blog that it has developed a new compact Tesla Supercharger specifically for use in cities.

“It is extremely important for our customers to be able to easily charge their cars. The most convenient way to charge is to plug in overnight at home, and for most people, this is all that is needed. However, for customers who use their car for long distance travel, there is a growing network of Superchargers located along highways on popular driving routes. We have also installed thousands of Destination Charging connectors at hotels, resorts and restaurants that replicate the home charging experience when you’re away from home. Now, as part of our commitment to make Tesla ownership easy for everyone, including those without immediate access to home or workplace charging, we are expanding our Supercharger network into city centers, starting with downtown Chicago and Boston.
“Supercharger stations in urban areas will be installed in convenient locations, including supermarkets, shopping centers and downtown districts, so it’s easy for customers to charge their car in the time it takes to grocery shop or run errands. They also have the same pricing as our existing Superchargers, which is far cheaper than the cost of gasoline.
“Superchargers in urban areas have a new post design that occupies less space and is easier to install, making them ideal for dense, highly populated areas. To increase efficiency and support a high volume of cars, these Superchargers have a new architecture that delivers a rapid 72 kilowatts of dedicated power to each car. This means charging speeds are unaffected by Tesla vehicles plugging into adjacent Superchargers, and results in consistent charging times around 45 to 50 minutes for most drivers.
“We will continue to expand our charging networks so that Tesla owners always have abundant and reliable access to charging wherever they go.”
As our resident Tesla guru, Kyle Field, points out that the compact urban Superchargers won’t feature the full 125 kW of power that is typical for most Superchargers located along major transportation routes. However, those driving in cities are less likely to be passing through, and thus not in such a hurry to charge and go. It is far more likely they will be shopping or dining in the area and will be more than happy to wait 50 minutes to an hour to replenish their batteries. 72 kW is still far greater power than what is available to drivers of other electric cars — other fast charging stations typically range from 25 kW to 50 kW.
Tesla may be the most disruptive company since the British East India Company. Not only is it leading the way toward an electric car future, but it is also bringing dramatic changes to freight hauling with its soon-to-be revealed Tesla Semi, an innovative solar roof from its SolarCity division, intercity travel with the Hyperloop concept, and space travel via its SpaceX corporate cousin.
Electric cars and charging infrastructure are two sides of the same coin. Porsche says its first all-electric car, the Mission E four-door sports car, will be capable of 150 kW charging, but where will Porsche owners find such powerful chargers? Perhaps other carmakers will see the writing on the wall and adopt the Tesla Supercharger system for their own cars and customers before long.

Electric Volkswagen ID Buzz Due In 2022

The Volkswagen Microbus is an iconic vehicle that just oozes beach vibes. Here in California, it is synonymous with surfing and the ’60s and has a cult following even to this day. For that reason, it was impactful that VW CEO Dr. Herbert Diess chose California as the place to announce the return of the VW Minibus. He related as much to the crowd in Pebble Beach, California. “The Microbus has long been part of the California lifestyle. Now we’re bringing it back by reinventing it as an electric vehicle.”
Volkswagen ID Buzz
Dubbed the Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ, the new Minibus will be fully electric and will carry forward a lot of the cool design cues from the original, but into the modern age. VW believes that the form factor makes for a great platform for all sorts of bespoke options, much like the Ford Transit and similar vehicles. VW announced explicit intentions to move into the transit space with a special version called the I.D. BUZZ CARGO that will allow buyers several options for a transit-oriented version straight from dealerships.
As most major automotive manufacturers have announced plans for various levels of advanced vehicle autonomy in 2020 or 2021, the VW I.D. BUZZ would also make a great form factor for a fully autonomous local shuttle van. With VW’s focus on interpersonal communication and device-agnostic vehicle communication, it is not difficult to imagine the I.D. BUZZ as a feature packed autonomous shuttle that would suit the millennial lifestyle like a glove. VW shared that it will include Level 3 autonomous driving features, which is a step above what Tesla’s Autopilot solution offers in production today. But …
Before you get too excited about the VW I.D. BUZZ and run off to call your local dealer to put down a deposit, we have to talk dates. In all too unfortunately typical VW fashion, the VW I.D. BUZZ isn’t slated to make it to showrooms until a ghastly 2022. In electric vehicle terms, that’s an eternity away. Volvo will sell only electric versions of its vehicles by an impressive 2019 — though, in all likelihood, this only means they will be at least a hybrid, with likely options for plug-in hybrids and fully electric drivetrains on some models.
Source: VW

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Honda Urban EV Concept And Smart Power Sharing System At Frankfurt Auto Show

Honda is late to the electric car party. Like most of its fellow Japanese car companies, it has been chasing the fuel cell chimera while Tesla was busy turning the automotive industry upside down with innovative electric cars. Now Honda is playing catch up. At the Frankfurt auto show this week, it is presenting two new products — the Honda Urban EV Concept and a Smart Power Sharing system. Of the two, the second may be the most important.

Honda Urban EV Concept

Looking a little like the original Volkswagen Rabbit, the Honda Urban EV Concept is a three door hatchback designed to transport four people. “This is not some vision of the distant future. A production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019,” Honda CEO told the press at the Frankfurt auto show.  The Concept is built on an all new chassis designed specifically for electric cars.

The car features a full width electronic display screen that wraps around into the doors, where it displays digital images of the world outside in lieu of traditional side view mirrors. The Concept is 100 millimeters shorter than already truncated Honda Jazz, known at the Fit in North America. The doors are hinged at the rear and there is an interactive display screen between the headlights that can display messages to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers. Honda makes no mention of the car having autonomous driving capability.
The Urban EV Concept “showcases the company’s vision for a world where mobility and daily life are seamlessly linked. The on-board advanced Honda Automated Network Assistant acts as a personal concierge, which learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments. It can then apply what it has learned from the driver’s past decisions to make new choices and recommendations,” according to a Honda press release.

Honda Smart Power Management System

Vehicle to Grid technology has been largely written off by most major companies. Tesla’s chief technology officer JB Straubel say his company has researched the idea and decided against using it. He claims it degrades electric car batteries prematurely and that batteries or propulsion and batteries for storage need different properties.
Nevertheless, V2G technology seems to be enjoying a resurgence. A recent experiment conducted by Enel, one of Europe’s largest utility companies, and a small number of electric vehicle fleet owners found that selling electricity stored in vehicle batteries back to the grid seems to actually extend battery life. It also results in a significant pay back for the vehicle owners — enough to offset most of the cost of electricity needed to keep them charged up during the course of a year.
Honda proposes to make V2G connectivity available to its electric car customers in western France using a new Smart Power Management system. V2G systems can help balance a grid that gets significant input from renewable sources. It can also assist utilities in meeting higher than expected grid demand instead of bringing an auxiliary power plant online. V2G systems can react in fractions of a second to adjust the flow of electricity.
Philip Ross of Honda Motor Europe, told the press in Frankfurt, “We will incorporate electrified drivelines in two thirds of cars sold in the region by 2025. The introduction of our Power Manager system supports and reinforces our commitment. It uses advanced technology to intelligently integrate the electric vehicle into the wider power network, so it is no longer just a consumer but also a contributor to the grid. It underlines our pledge to develop a more sustainable mobility model.”

The Bottom Line

As cool as the Honda Urban EV Concept may be (Tesla Model 3 customers, feel free to scoff at this point), the idea of smart power grids is tantalizing. Instead of spending $5,500 or more for a residential storage battery, electric car owners could simply plug in and use the energy storage capability of their cars to absorb excess energy from renewable during the day and run their homes or businesses using the stored power when the sun sets of the wind dies.
Vermont Power is doing something similar by offering its customers Tesla Powerwall units at reduced prices in exchange for being able to integrate them into a smart grid. Conceptually, does it make more sense to have two storage batteries — one in our cars and one in our homes — or one that does the same job? The Honda experiment in France may help answer that question.