Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wright Electric Planning Short Haul Electric Airplane Within Ten Years

Wright Electric, a start-up supported by Y Combinator, says it is working on building an electric airplane that can fly 150 passengers up to 300 miles. Its goal is to have the airplanes in the air within 10 years. It has already attracted interest from an established airline. EasyJet, a low cost British air travel company tells the BBC it “has had discussions with Wright Electric and is actively providing an airline operator’s perspective on the development of this exciting technology.”
electric  airplane Wright Electric
An electric airplane has several advantages over traditional aircraft. First and foremost, it doesn’t spew carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere while in flight. Second, it will be quieter than a conventional airplane. But we know in the era of Trumponmics that the only consideration is cost — the environment be damned. And that’s where the Wright Electric proposal really shines. The cost of electricity should be significantly less than the cost of jet fuel. That would allow the price of plane tickets to drop substantially.
With a range of 300 miles, the Wright Electric airplane would be capable of serving 30% of all commercial airline routes in the world. But where will it get the power to stay aloft and how long will it take to recharge the batteries after each flight? That part’s easy. The company says the batteries will be fitted to conventional airline shipping containers. They will be charged on the ground and simply swapped in and out as needed.
“The way we’ve designed our plane is to have modular battery packs for quick swap using the same cargo container that’s in a regular airplane,” says Jeff Engler, co-founder of Wright Electric. “We want it to be as fast as possible, so airlines can keep their planes in the air as long as possible and cover their costs.”
Some of this is wishful thinking at this point. It all depends on battery technology continuing to improve at its current rate. There are no batteries today that are small enough and powerful enough to keep such an electric airplane in the air long enough to be commercially viable. But Wright Electric is going ahead with the design of the aircraft while it waits for new developments to provide the batteries it will need. The company is working with Chip Yates, the American inventor who currently holds the record for the world’s fastest electric airplane.
Other companies are exploring electric aircraft including Airbus. Siemens is testing a new electric motor that is lighter and 5 times more powerful than normal. Is the era of electric flight upon us? Not quite yet, but it is coming. The electric airplane isn’t a reality yet, but the technology to make it happen is ready to go. All that remains is for battery technology to catch up. John Goodenough may have something to do with when that happens.
Source: BBC

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tesla Model 3 Expected To Outsell BMW 3 Series And Mercedes C Class – Combined

Elon Musk has some high expectations for the Tesla Model 3. He says the company has told suppliers to plan for “1,000 cars a week in July, 2,000 a week in August, and 4,000 a week in September.” Tesla plans to be making 5,000 cars a week by December and double that number by the end of next year. If so, the Model 3 will outsell both the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C Class in the US market. If the plan is to disrupt the traditional car companies, eating their lunch in the sales race is one sure way to do it.Tesla Model 3
How is Tesla planning to make all this happen? For one thing, it claims to have re-invented the manufacturing process. Musk says his engineers have looked at every aspect of production and optimized everything that happens from when the raw materials come in at one end until the finished cars roll off the line at the other.

A Ten Times Faster Factory

He claims his factory will be ten times faster than any other. The cars will whiz along so fast that no human being will be able to keep pace with them. The Tesla Model 3 production line will be the most automated in history, as machines will do virtually all the work. The optimization process is not confined just to automobiles, however. According to Musk, the innovations will revolutionize all manufacturing and increase the speed of production dramatically. He says he is recreating “the machine that builds the machine.”
Musk is famous for setting the bar impossibly high. Even his biggest supporters on Wall Street are skeptical he can build and sell that many cars in so short a time. Most manufacturers need 6 months to a year to test their new vehicles out in the real world before full production begins. One way Musk plans to shorten that timeline is to use his own employees as testers. They will receive the first cars produced. That way, any glitches and problems will be identified early and brought to the company’s attention when the employees come to work the next day.

Leveraging Customers

Musk is an expert at getting others to do his work for him. The company frequently enlists so called beta testers to try out new software upgrades before they are released officially. Every Tesla ever built since October, 2015 sends driving data back to the factory over the air, which has allowed Tesla to accumulate the largest library of real world road data in history.
All that data is analyzed by company engineers to improve the autonomous driving features of Tesla automobiles. Other companies are desperate to obtain digital driving maps but they have only a small fleet of test vehicles on the road. Their regular production cars are incapable of proving critical data to the factories because they are not connected to the cloud the way Teslas are. Musk says regulators will require a 20 billion miles worth of data before they approve autonomous cars. Tesla is already nearly a quarter of the way toward that goal. That’s a huge advantage for Tesla.

Hurdles Remain

So will the Model 3 sweep away all its competitors and leave them floundering in its wake? Maybe, but it still has some hurdles in its path. For one, Tesla is only allowed to sell direct to US customers in 26 states. That leaves a large part of the country and some big states like Michigan and Texas where customers must jump through hoops to test drive, order cars online, and take delivery in another state. Not quite as convenient as dropping by the local car dealer just down the road.
Tesla does not pay for advertising. Instead, Musk whips his followers into a frenzy by skillful use of tweets. That has worked well for early adopters, but the Model 3 is meant to be a car for mainstream buyers, some of whom may not even own a smartphone or have any idea what Twitter is. (I know. Hard to believe some folks are so clueless.) Tesla may not be able to maintain its “no advertising” policy if it seeks to become a mass marketer instead of a niche player.

Model 3 As Taxi

Musk has been dropping hints this week that the Model 3 will not be a luxury car like the Model S (although some say the Model S could be more luxurious). “Nothing majorly new that a consumer would notice. Lots of new tech in the design and production process though.” It will have only one display screen because, “The more autonomous a car is, the less dash info you need. How often do you look at the instrument panel when being driven in a taxi?” Musk said in a subsequent Tweet.
And that is the first sour note in the Model 3 symphony. One one hand, Tesla is targeting 3 Series and C Class customers. On the other hand, it is comparing the Model 3 to driving a taxi. Will people be willing to spend an (estimated) average of $42,000 for a vehicle that is just a glorified taxi?  Are 400,000 people a year going to shell out that much money for a car that can be used as part of a money making scheme? Musk says self driving cars will soon be as common as self service elevators — and about as much fun to operate.
Is the world ready for that paradigm shift? Musk clearly thinks so and that may be the one hurdle the Model 3 can’t conquer.
Source: Bloomberg

Consumer Reports Says Chevy Malibu Hybrid Gets Best Fuel Economy

Consumer Reports says the Chevy Malibu Hybrid gets better fuel economy than any other midsize hybrid sold in America. True, there are compact hybrids like the Toyota Prius that do better, but if you want a hybrid with a little more elbow room, the Malibu is CR’s choice. The “as tested” price of the car was $30,735 dollars. That includes most of the features of the mid level Malibu LT including 17″ alloy wheels plus automatic climate control and an electronic parking brake.
Chevy Malibu Hybrid
The base Malibu comes with a 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine. The Malibu Hybrid has a larger 1.8 liter engine but still manages to squeeze 12 more miles out of every gallon of gasoline. That’s a significant increase. CR says with the addition of an electric motor in the powertrain, the Hybrid also outperforms the conventional car in acceleration tests.
Highway fuel economy was an impressive 49 mpg. Overall, the test car returned 41 miles per gallon in combined highway and city driving — the best in its class. It can also operate solely on battery power in some circumstances.
CR went on to say, “The Malibu Hybrid proved secure and forgiving on our track. But it posted a respectable speed through our avoidance maneuver — even bettering that of its nonhybrid sibling. In fact, the Hybrid proved slightly more balanced when cornering on our test track, probably because of the weight of the hybrid battery in the back. The Malibu Hybrid proves every bit as comfortable of a ride as the Toyota Camry, but it trails the luxury-like plushness of the Subaru Legacy. The Chevy absorbs bumps very well and remains composed.”
The testers praised the Malibu Hybrid for its uncluttered interior. It found the infotainment system — which is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto — easy to use. The Malibu does suffer from some outward visibility issues compared to competitors like the Accord, Camry, and Legacy. Testers also complained that car was harder to get in and out of than its competition. I experienced this recently in a Chevy Cruze rental and attribute it to Chevrolet tucking the front seat passengers behind the B pillar for increased side impact protection.
Consumer Reports found the standard seats uncomfortable and recommends the $2,140 leather seat upgrade which includes a forward collision warning system, automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring. Those features should be standard on every new car but aren’t because manufacturers are anxious to keep prices as low as possible in this very competitive segment of the market.
Overall, the testers found much to like about the Chevy Malibu Hybrid, especially its excellent fuel economy — which is why people buy a hybrid in the first place.
Source:  Consumer Reports

Saturday, March 25, 2017

MAN To Test Electric Semi Truck Later This Year

MAN, the heavy truck division of Volkswgen, says it will begin testing an electric semi truck in cooperation with nine of Austria’s largest transportation companies and the Council for Sustainable Logistics before the end of 2017. The trucks will have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of between 12 and 26 tons. How they perform in medium and heavy duty service will provide feedback that will help MAN develop a larger portfolio of electric trucks for the future.
MAN electric semi truck
“The CNL companies will test out these vehicles in daily use,” says Joachim Drees, chairman of the board of directors for MAN. Dr Carsten Intra, another member of the MAN board adds, “The partnership with CNL offers MAN the ideal opportunity to further develop existing technology for series production using the practical experiences of members in the consortium. It will also help us gear our new product portfolio to customers’ requirements.”
“MAN has a clear roadmap for its trucks and buses when it comes to electro-mobility. We are introducing you to our first eTruck here today, and by the end of the year you will be seeing it on our streets,” Drees told the press. “At the end of 2019 we will be going into series production for an all-electric city bus, with series production of the eTruck to begin in early 2021. We will be using a flexible modular assembly of drive components that we can use for different applications.”
MAN unveiled its first Metropolis electric concept vehicle in 2012 and showed a further development of the concept in 2016. The MAN City-Truck concept vehicle, designed for applications in night shift deliveries to city center locations, is powered by a 250 kW electric motor which delivers 2,700 Nm of torque to the rear axle via a prop shaft with no gearbox. Lithium ion batteries from the Volkswagen Group are arranged under the driver’s cab above the front axle. The vehicle offers a range of 200 kilometers and has the same payload as a legacy diesel tractor from MAN’s TGS model range.
We know that Tesla is working on an electric semi truck which will be called the Tesla Semi (clever name, that). Also, Nikola Motors says it has hundreds of order for its Nikola One electric semi truck with a natural gas powered range extender engine.
As much as reducing the carbon footprint from automobiles is important, winning the battle against climate change will require heavy vehicles that haul cargo to give up their dependency on diesel engines. There are many more cars than trucks, but heavy duty vehicles contribute a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions to the environment.

Source: Charged EVs      Photo credits: MAN

Elon Musk Tweets Up The Model 3 And Model Y

Before leaving for the Space Coast to watch the first ever launch of a reused Falcon 9 rocket by SpaceX, Elon Musk took to Twitter to drop lots of hints about what’s ahead for Tesla and the Model 3 and other things that are happening in the Tesla universe.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 News

Musk began the day by tweeting this video of a black Tesla Model 3. The car is what is called an early release candidate, meaning it is one of the first to be built on the actual assembly line that will be used to manufacture the production cars. Yeah, it’s only 6 seconds long but that’s enough to get the fan base fired up. Feast your eyes on this, Tesla fans!
There has been a lot of speculation about what the interior of the Model 3 will be like. The prototypes on display at the launch celebration a year ago showed no instrument cluster and no conventional controls. All those cars had was one touchscreen mounted horizontally in the middle of the dashboard. Rumors of a heads up display in front of the driver were rampant. But apparently, that single screen is all the Model 3 will have.
@elonmusk so does this mean no heads up display in Model 3? How will Tesla handle speedometer and Instrument Cluster information?
@arctechinc The more autonomous a car is, the less dash info you need. How often do you look at the instrument panel when being driven in a taxi?
That sure makes it sound like Musk expects the Model 3 to be ready for autonomous driving when production begins later this year. He also took the occasion to emphasize that the Model 3 is not a Model S.  “Model 3 is just a smaller, more affordable version of Model S w less range & power & fewer features. Model S has more advanced technology.” He added later, “Only Model S will have the seven seater option, more cargo space, plus higher range, acceleration, two screens vs. one, auto extend handles …”
Musk refers to the current Model S as Version 4 and says it is the car he personally will prefer to drive even after the Model 3 is released. Clearly, he is trying to lower people’s expectations a bit. The Model 3 will be an “everyman” car like the Mercedes E Class, not the premium near limousine vehicle that the Model S and Mercedes S Class are.

Model 3 Battery And Performance

Musk surprised some people by tweeting that the first Model 3 cars off the assembly line will be rear wheel drive only. Dual motors are a popular option and Musk had said previously that the highest profit cars would be built first. His Tweet set forth his latest thinking.
@elonmusk @JimPengelly First adopters will not have the option of all-wheel-drive for the Model 3?
@FredericLambert @JimPengelly No, we are minimizing configuration complexity to keep the production ramp on schedule. RWD only for early production, just like Model S.
That news was distressing to some Model 3 reservation holders. In a recent survey by Model3Tracker, only 7% say they want a base model of the Model 3. Dual motors, a larger battery, and Autopilot were the most popular options but it appears they may not be available at the start of production. The dual motor option will not be available for “6 to 7 months,” according to Musk.
The top battery selection will be 75 kWh — the same battery that is now standard in the least expensive Model S. Musk says that is the largest battery that will fit, given the shorter wheelbase of the Model 3 and the energy density of battery cells currently available. He hinted yesterday that the larger battery will not be available until next year.
Tesla still has not said what size the standard battery for the Model 3 will be, but Musk assured his followers that the car will have at least as much range as the Chevy Bolt, which features 238 miles of range. Cars with the 75 kWh battery are estimated to go more than 300 miles on a full battery charge given their lighter weight and excellent aerodynamics.

What About The Model Y?

The world may not be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs anymore, but it sure is crazy about SUVs. The percentage of sedans sold in America has dropped from 60% a few years ago to around 35% today while sales of SUVs have surged. That’s a problem for Tesla. The Model 3 is svelte and stylish but is has smallish trunk lid. Some have referred to it somewhat unkindly as a “letter slot.”
Musk has said in the past that Tesla is working on an SUV version of the Model 3 to be called the Model Y, thus completing Musk’s long running inside joke that the complete Tesla lineup will be S-E-X-Y. Ford ruined the party when it obtained a trademark on the Model E nomenclature, but all good Tesla fans know the Model 3 was really supposed to be called the Model E.
The Model Y — with or without the swoopy falcon wing doors found on the Model X — won’t be arriving anytime soon, though.
@elonmusk tell them its part of the 'S3XY'.

The Fastest Tesla

Elon wasn’t done, though. When asked if the Model 3 with the larger battery will outrun a Model S, he replied, “Model S will always be the fastest Tesla until next gen Roadster, which is a few years away.” With Tesla, there is always good news just around the corner, it seems.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tesla Model 3 Will Be Ten Times Safer Than Conventional Car

dam Jonas, a stock analyst at Morgan Stanley, released a research note for his clients on Thursday. Jonas has been consistently bullish on the prospects for Tesla stock and currently has a target price of $305 per share on its shares. His latest note says:
Tesla Model 3
“We think the Model 3 will feature hardware and software that provide a level of active safety that could significantly lead all other cars on sale today and could, if the company achieves its goal, be an order of magnitude (i.e. 10x) safer than the average car on the road. According to nearly every OEM we talk to, safety is the number 1 determinant of car purchases. Look for safety to be the ‘ah-hah!’ moment for this car due to launch this year.”
The Model 3 will have all the sensors needed to provide true self driving capability. It will feature a liquid cooled supercomputer manufactured by NVIDIA that is capable of processing 40 times more data than the the first Autopilot computer introduced in October, 2015. Model 3 owners will be able to select enhanced Autopilot or “full self driving capability.” Both are extra cost options but are expected to be popular with Model 3 customers.
Elon Musk tweeted 2 months ago that he expects a 90% reduction in collisions in cars equipped with what the company calls its Hardware 2 package of cameras, forward looking radar, and ultrasonic sensors. The software to manage all those inputs is gradually being optimized to provide enhanced Autopilot operation. Once approved by regulators, it will be capable of true Level 5 autonomous driving.
@elonmusk can that turn to 80% with HW2?
@TOCHOTE Our target is a 90% reduction with HW2 as the software matures
What most people don’t realize is that data from every mile driven by a Tesla automobile equipped with Autopilot is transmitted wirelessly to the factory, where Tesla engineers use it to improve the self driving software. Tesla has a huge lead over all other car makers because it now has over 4 billion miles of data available to it. Elon Musk says regulators will need access to 20 billion miles worth of data before approving full self driving operation. Once the Model 3 goes on sale, the amount of data Tesla collects daily will sky rocket, bringing the day when true self driving operation can begin closer to reality.
Jonas had one other thing to be bullish about. The Model 3 is a sedan. The market for sedans is falling rapidly as customers flock to SUVs and crossover vehicles. Tesla is already working on an SUV version of the Model 3 which will be known as the Model Y. Whether it will come with the iconic falcon wing doors of the Model X is still a matter of conjecture, but Jonas believes the Model Y will be the best selling Tesla of all.
“We believe the small SUV segment will eventually be the largest segment in the world across all OEMs,” Jonas wrote. “We also expect Model Y to be at the center of an on-demand ride sharing service (“Tesla Mobility”) due to its larger passenger compartment, luggage space, and modular seat configuration.” If Jonas is correct, his target price of $305 per share may be too low.

Source: Fortune