Nikola Adding Efficiency And Automation to Hydrogen Semi-Truck

Nikola Motor Co. says its hydrogen and battery powered Class 8 semi-truck is being improved as it hires with more employees to bring it to production.

Founder Trevor Milton told Trucks.com that the Nikola One revealed in December at its Salt Lake City headquarters will shaving weight to make it about 2,000 pounds lighter than a diesel semi, and it will offer an automated driving mode.

The company plans increase its staff and move to a larger production facility. Milton said that a dozen new employees have been hired since the December launch. The number will be tripled in the next four months, bringing the employee count to over 100. Much the development work is being outsourced to support the Nikola team’s efforts and timetable.

A new, 1.5 million square-foot manufacturing plant is to be revealed in the next couple of months. It will need relocation from the current facility and will utilize robotic manufacturing, the chief executive said.

Land rights are being secured now for its landmark network of hydrogen fueling stations. The company said that it’s finalizing land rights on the first eight of the eventual 376 nationwide fueling stations.

The company made an impressive claim back in December – the truck will be able to travel 800 to 1,200 miles carrying a full 65,000-pound load before having to stop at a hydrogen station. Refueling could be done in just 15 minutes.

The Nikola One is a Class 8 electric hydrogen hybrid semi-truck with a 300 kilowatt fuel cell and a 320 kWh battery bank. Lighweighting the truck is going to help make the range even longer.

“In the trucking world, that’s like the holy grail,” Milton said. “We’ve spent a lot of money and time – the last seven months – on carbon fiber engineering, running a lot of simulation models.”

Each system operating the truck, including steering and electric, will be able to go into autonomous mode. There will also be a backup manual system for drivers to take over.

Another design change is making the front cab wider than what was shown in the prototype model, to give drivers more room inside. It will have two doors instead of one so that drivers can enter from either side of the cab.

Milton said that the Nikola One received over 8,000 reservations – more than expected, and enough to put pre-orders on hold.

That commitment also helped Nikola Motor bring in a $110 million funding round, reaching a total valuation of $1.5 billion.

The truck maker is currently conducting testing in controlled environments. It hopes to gain permits for live stress testing by mid-2018. That would be followed by three years of extreme weather condition tests.

By late next year, Nikola will be sending the hydrogen hybrid truck to fleets for test runs under varying driving conditions.

Limited production of the first trucks will start in October 2020 and full production is slated for 2021, Milton said.

SEE ALSO:  Nikola Motors Debuts Hydrogen-Electric Semi-Truck

Nikola will see competition with more hydrogen-powered and electrified trucks coming out.

Toyota launched a Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell drayage truck test project with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in April. Last month, truck maker Kenworth announced its plan to launch a similar truck by the end of the year.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed a teaser image of its electric semi-truck during a TED talk in April. The unveiling will take place in September, Musk later said.

Milton isn’t worried about it.

“This is the big one people are asking a lot of questions about,” he said. “Our range is 800-plus miles, while theirs is 200 to 300. And ours requires a 15-minute fill-up time, while theirs needs a four- to eight-hour charge or a battery swap every 200 to 300 miles.”

Truck.com

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Nikola Adding Efficiency And Automation to Hydrogen Semi-Truck

Nikola Motor Co. says its hydrogen and battery powered Class 8 semi-truck is being improved as it hires with more employees to bring it to production.

Founder Trevor Milton told Trucks.com that the Nikola One revealed in December at its Salt Lake City headquarters will shaving weight to make it about 2,000 pounds lighter than a diesel semi, and it will offer an automated driving mode.

The company plans increase its staff and move to a larger production facility. Milton said that a dozen new employees have been hired since the December launch. The number will be tripled in the next four months, bringing the employee count to over 100. Much the development work is being outsourced to support the Nikola team’s efforts and timetable.

A new, 1.5 million square-foot manufacturing plant is to be revealed in the next couple of months. It will need relocation from the current facility and will utilize robotic manufacturing, the chief executive said.

Land rights are being secured now for its landmark network of hydrogen fueling stations. The company said that it’s finalizing land rights on the first eight of the eventual 376 nationwide fueling stations.

The company made an impressive claim back in December – the truck will be able to travel 800 to 1,200 miles carrying a full 65,000-pound load before having to stop at a hydrogen station. Refueling could be done in just 15 minutes.

The Nikola One is a Class 8 electric hydrogen hybrid semi-truck with a 300 kilowatt fuel cell and a 320 kWh battery bank. Lighweighting the truck is going to help make the range even longer.

“In the trucking world, that’s like the holy grail,” Milton said. “We’ve spent a lot of money and time – the last seven months – on carbon fiber engineering, running a lot of simulation models.”

Each system operating the truck, including steering and electric, will be able to go into autonomous mode. There will also be a backup manual system for drivers to take over.

Another design change is making the front cab wider than what was shown in the prototype model, to give drivers more room inside. It will have two doors instead of one so that drivers can enter from either side of the cab.

Milton said that the Nikola One received over 8,000 reservations – more than expected, and enough to put pre-orders on hold.

That commitment also helped Nikola Motor bring in a $110 million funding round, reaching a total valuation of $1.5 billion.

The truck maker is currently conducting testing in controlled environments. It hopes to gain permits for live stress testing by mid-2018. That would be followed by three years of extreme weather condition tests.

By late next year, Nikola will be sending the hydrogen hybrid truck to fleets for test runs under varying driving conditions.

Limited production of the first trucks will start in October 2020 and full production is slated for 2021, Milton said.

SEE ALSO:  Nikola Motors Debuts Hydrogen-Electric Semi-Truck

Nikola will see competition with more hydrogen-powered and electrified trucks coming out.

Toyota launched a Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell drayage truck test project with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in April. Last month, truck maker Kenworth announced its plan to launch a similar truck by the end of the year.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed a teaser image of its electric semi-truck during a TED talk in April. The unveiling will take place in September, Musk later said.

Milton isn’t worried about it.

“This is the big one people are asking a lot of questions about,” he said. “Our range is 800-plus miles, while theirs is 200 to 300. And ours requires a 15-minute fill-up time, while theirs needs a four- to eight-hour charge or a battery swap every 200 to 300 miles.”

Truck.com

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Nissan Renault Alliance Want To Provide Electric Automated Sharing – Eventually

The Nissan and Renault alliance will be joining the race to provide automated shared rides, but it won’t be anytime soon.

These self-driving car rides will be based on its electric cars – which could include the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe – but the self-driving cars and mobility services will come after 2020, and “certainly within 10 years,” said Ogi Redzic, head of Nissan-Renault’s connected vehicles and mobility services division.

Testing has already started, though. Redzic said that testing by the two companies already has begun.

One decision made has been that the mobility service will be running on pre-mapped courses for pick-up and drop-off locations set at beginning of the ride.

Other partners have already been brought in – Japanese game software maker DeNA Co. and French public transport operator Transdev SA.

That indicates the automated, electric rides will be starting in Renault’s home country of France.

One reason it won’t be coming to market his year is the regulatory structure governing autonomous vehicles. Redzic thinks regulations in markets around the world will need to change to allow self-driving cars on roads. Regulations are still governing the test phase now with drivers ready to take over the automated car.

Nissan Renault is looking forward to fully autonomous vehicles to be allowed on roads for this new business unit to work.

“It doesn’t just depend on us,” he said. “To become fully driverless you need laws to change.”

Testing the technology certainly takes a few years, but there are plans in the works.

Ride-hailing firm Lyft is working with one of its owners, General Motors, to try out autonomous Chevy Bolts.

Ford plans to roll out autonomous shared rides in the next few years.

BMW is now testing automated cars for use in ride-hailing services.

Tesla has plans to make its fully autonomous vehicles available for Tesla owners who want to make side income renting out their EVs to ride-hailing drivers.

SEE ALSO:  Nissan: EVs And Autonomous Tech Are Key To Growth In US, Europe

Prior to its recent wave of internal strife, ride-hailing giant Uber put in a lot of hours testing autonomous rides with passengers. It main competitor, Lyft, is forging alliances beyond GM, with alliances being forged recently with Waymo and nuTonomy.

Goldman Sachs thinks automated rides will be five times the size of the taxi market by 2030. That is a few years out.

New York Times

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2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s MPG Will Match the Prius

The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid will start showing up at dealerships in late summer with a revised hybrid system offering substantial fuel efficiency gains.

The Camry Hybrid’s LE option comes with a 52 mpg combined highway estimated-EPA rating, the same as the 2017 Prius hatchback gets in EPA combined rating.

The new Total Hybrid System (THS II) gets much of its mpg improvement through a more-efficient transmission system. The new Sequential Shiftmatic works with a continuously-variable transmission while continuously finding a balance between high power output and the best possible energy efficiency.

Toyota engineers simulated a quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission in the new Camry to improve power and efficiency. The SE option uses a paddle shifter to get it done, while the LE and XLE versions use a console-mounted shift lever.

Owners will see a 30-percent combined mpg increase for the LE package. Toyota says its best-in-class EPA mileage comes in at 51 city, 53 highway, and 52 combined in mpg. The SE and XLE options offer a 21 percent gain with a 44 city, 47 highway, and 46 combined EPA-estimated rating.

Toyota said that an updated Power Control Unit (PCU) in the new hybrid system plays a key role in improving operational efficiency in the powertrain. Improvements in conversion efficiency in the PCU and transaxle/electric motor reduce energy loss by about 20 percent. Improvements in the cooling system cuts out another 10 percent in energy loss.

The Camry Hybrid comes with two electric motors paired to an Atkinson cycle engine. The engine works in concert with electric motor MG2. Energy efficiency is gained by using both onboard electric motors (MG1 and MG2) for hybrid battery charging.

As for batteries, Toyota is leaning a little bit more toward lithium-ion, with that technology available for the LE grade. The SE and XLE get the traditional Toyota battery, the nickel-metal hydride battery pack on the SE and XLE packages.

Another improvement in the new hybrid makes the storage space better by moving the hybrid’s battery pack from the trunk area to beneath the rear seat. That brings a lower center of gravity to the car.

SEE ALSO:  2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid To Have Prius-Like Fuel Economy

The Camry Hybrid comes out along with the all-new gasoline engine Camry, now in its eighth-generation after 15 years of being a top selling car in the U.S.

Launched about a decade ago, the Camry Hybrid will have its third-generation version roll out. It continues to be one of the best-selling Toyota hybrids.

The MSRP for the conventional Camry goes from $23,495 to $34,950, while the Camry Hybrid is priced at $27,800 for the LE to $32,250 for the XLE.

These MSRP prices do not include the delivery, processing and handling (DPH) fee.

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Panasonic Wants To Go Mass Market With Solar Cells On Electric Car Roofs

Panasonic is ready to take the lead offering solar panels embedded into mass-produced electric car roofs.

The Japanese electronics giant started this move in February partnering with Toyota by adding its 180-watt array of solar cells into the roof of new Prius Prime plug-in hybrids. Battery range is increased through this passive technology that Prius Prime buyers can choose as an option.

“That means you get about 10 percent of annual mileage from solar just by letting your car sit,” said Shingo Okamoto, the general manager at Panasonic overseeing the project, in an interview in Tokyo.

Panasonic, with its role supplying solar roofs to the strong-selling Prius Prime and through its partnership with Tesla, could be well positioned in this newly emerging feature. It taps into the need to bring extended range to plug-in vehicles – and the fascination many consumers have with clean technology perks like having solar panels on their home and their electric car.

“Car roofs have the potential to become a new market for solar panels,” Okamoto said. “We made history in the auto industry and in the solar industry with the sun powering mass-produced cars for the first time in the world.”

SEE ALSO: Panasonic Solar Roof Will Energize Toyota Prius Prime in Japan

Toyota engineers are well known for bringing efficient technologies to the Prius hybrid and plug-in hybrid family including regenerative braking and lightweight materials. These have added to miles per gallon and range, and solar panels add to the energy the Prius Prime can tap into.

“We are aware that the panels are supplying only a small amount of electricity,” said Shoichi Kaneko, chief engineer for the Prius. “But this system is still a breakthrough as we are making use of the energy we would be wasting otherwise. By filling all available space with cells, it is possible to extend the range easily to 10 kilometers (6.21 miles).”

Panasonic engineers have done their share of testing out the solar cells to see how energy is stored under varying conditions. They’d already gained a lot of experience crafting solar panels for houses.

It’s certainly different than a residential rooftop, with the curving contour of a car’s top. There’s also vibration occurring while driving the car, unpredictable appearance of shadows, and very limited space available on the car’s roof.

Okamoto said the Panasonic team was able to adjust the way bypass diodes are configured inside the car’s solar panels. That’s given the panels more of a smooth flow of electricity.

Automakers like Toyota can work with Panasonic to adjust their rooftop design to add more space for solar cells, extending the range.

Toyota did give this technology a try with a limited release back in 2009. It had less capacity with the ability to produce only 56 watts of power, and it could only charge the Prius’ ventilation systems.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has shown interest in placing solar panels, which he tweeted about in November. The upcoming Model 3 may come with a solar roof, Musk said.

Panasonic and Tesla are hard at work on making battery packs for the Model 3. They’re also working together, and with Tesla’s SolarCity subsidiary, to produce home solar rooftop panels. The team has been working to make home roof tiles embedded with solar panels in various styles popular across the U.S.

SEE ALSO:  More Solar Power Added to Karma Revero for Its Official Launch

Other companies are exploring interest in solar roofs customized for electric cars.

Nissan offers a small solar panel option for its Leaf electric cars, providing extra power to systems such as the air conditioners and radios. Hanergy Holding Group unveiled four concept solar cars last year, but they’re still in the pre-production phase.

In August, the Karma Revero plug-in hybrid luxury sports car was launched with solar cells embedded in the rooftop. The designers said it has a solar roof providing more of the power than the previous Fisker Karma’s solar panel.

Toyota is finding interest in the solar roof option. At the end of April, the company said it had sold 1,350 units in Japan equipped with solar panels. That made for nearly 9 percent of the total since the option was added, the company said.

Automotive News

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Consumer Federation of America Notes People Want Better MPG Trucks, SUVs, and Crossovers

Consumers want good fuel economy even in crossovers, SUVs, and pickups, and a new study indicates this affects the kinds of vehicles people buy.

Recently Consumer Federation of America analyzed U.S. sales and mileage data between 2011 and 2016 to find that light-duty trucks with mpg increases over 10 percent saw a surge of 59 percent in sales during that five-year period.

Vehicles with less than a 10-percent increase had a gain of 41 percent in sales during that time.

The report sees a clear example of consumer preferences being the Toyota RAV4 increasing in mpg by 10 percent in that five-year window – with a nearly 220,000 unit increase, a 166-percent gain, in annual vehicle sales. It wasn’t as good for the GMC Terrain, which had a 1 mpg decrease but only a 6-percent sales increase during those five years.

CFA sees national fuel economy increases adopted in 2012 as the heart of the matter. Even though consumers are going for crossovers over cars, the typical crossover gets 10-percent better fuel economy now than in 2011 due to the fuel economy standards that are facing a rollback under the Trump administration.

“This analysis completely debunks automaker claims that consumers don’t value good gas mileage,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s director of public affairs. “Clearly, the more improvement in MPG, the better the sales.”

Cars made up 2,682,955 of the new light vehicles sold in the U.S. during the first five months of this year, according to Motor Intelligence by Autodata. Light-duty trucks – pickups, SUVs, crossover, and vans – saw 4,295,134 units sold in the U.S. during that same time.

That means light-duty trucks make up 61.5 percent of U.S. new light-duty vehicle sales. A few years ago, they were split at about 50 percent each between cars and trucks. Low gasoline prices and growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs have been cited as reasons for this sales trend.

Automakers would like to see pushback from the Trump administration on the fuel economy standards, CFA said. They’ve been lobbying for a reopening of the mid-term review that would rollback the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to support the standards as the Obama administration exited office.

CFA also warned that Congress is now working on a bill (S. 1273) that would lower mpg rules for larger vehicles.

“This short sighted thinking by Congress and the auto companies ignores consumer demand for more fuel efficiency. As gas prices creep back up, car companies will be in the same spot they were back in 2009 when they had to be bailed out by the government, with lots filled with larger, fuel inefficient vehicles they can’t sell,” Gillis said.

SEE ALSO:  Will US Consumers Benefit From Strong MPG Regulations?

CFA’s analysis factored in two separate calculations – one for cars and one for light trucks – that were built into the federal rules. A sliding scale was built into the calculations reducing some of the requirements on large vehicles. Another flexible standard in favor of automakers is that the requirements spread averaged across their entire fleet – not all the vehicles sold have to meet the target each year, the federation said.

Looking at the total cost of fuel helps put the issue into perspective for average consumer households.

“It’s no surprise that consumers want better gas mileage since the typical household spends over $1,500 on gasoline each year, which is about as much as the they spend on electricity or telephone services,” said CFA’s director of research Mark Cooper.

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BMW i8 Takes Engine Performance and Efficiency Award For Third Year

The BMW i8’s sports car performance and small car fuel economy won it the International Engine of the Year award for the third year in a row.

The i8 plug-in hybrid took the award in the 1.4-liter to 1.8-liter displacement category. Winners were recognized Wednesday during the Engine Expo trade fair in Stuttgart.

Judges have been impressed by the output from the BMW i8’s 1.5-liter 3-cylinder gasoline engine coupled with the 96 kW/131 horsepower electric motor. The three-cylinder engine produces 170 kW/231 horsepower for the rear wheels, while the electric motor is fueled by the lithium-ion battery pack for the front axle.

The high-output system comes from the gasoline and electric power sources that drive the rear wheels. The electric boost from the hybrid system gives passengers BMW driving pleasure and high levels of efficiency. It’s capable of going 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.4 seconds.

“It’s a spectacular engine, despite it’s puny dimensions. If you didn’t know it was a 1.5-liter unit boosted by electricity, you’d swear it was a 3-liter flat-six. Its brilliance comes from its seamless application of technology,” said Graham Johnson, co-chairman, International Engine of the Year Awards.

On the fuel consumption side, the i8 gets 2.1 liter/100 km (112 mpg), which comes out to 134.5 mpg under New European Driving Cycle standards and 76 in mpg equivalent rating under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. One the CO2 emissions side, the i8 has a rating of 49.0 grams per kilometer based on the EU test cycle.

Such clean performance comes from the Efficient Dynamics technology package, which has been providing driving fuel economy while reducing fuel economy and emissions since being introduced in 2007, the company said.

BMW’s plug-in hybrid system has a range up to 37 kilometers (23 miles) in the EU test cycle. It can drive to a top all-electric speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). Its all-wheel drive system provides powerful acceleration, plus dynamically-biased distribution of power through keenly taken corners.”

SEE ALSO:  GKN’s BMW i8 e-Axle Wins Automotive News PACE Award

The International Engine of the Year Awards have been given out since 1999. BMW has received 68 class and overall wins for its power units engineered for BMW models. Awards are given by a panel of 50 auto journalists from 31 countries.

British publication Auto Car reported in late 2016 that the 2018 BMW i8 will get an upgraded gasoline-electric powertrain that have been tested in a fleet of prototype vehicles, along with powering two i8 safety cars used in the Formula E electric racing series.

Combined with the 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine, the output would be lifted to around 420 horsepower compared to the existing model’s 357 horsepower.

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GAC Motor Bringing Plug-in Vehicles To America By 2019

A major Chinese automaker says it will be getting its foothold in the U.S. market during 2019 by introducing at least one plug-in electrified vehicle.

Last week at Michelin’s sustainable mobility summit in Montreal, GAC Motor president Yu Jun said that seven “new energy vehicle” models – battery electric and plug-in hybrid – will come to market during this year.

The company has already opened an R&D office in Silicon Valley in anticipation of the 2019 market entry.

GAC has only been around for about six years but has already sold about 1 million vehicles – with 207,000 sold during the first five months of 2017.

The automaker’s mission is to sell 1 million units annually by 2020, with 20 percent being new energy vehicles. This year’s target is 500,000 total new vehicles sold, Yu said.

At Auto Show Shanghai 2017 in April, the Chinese automaker unveiled six new models, including the GA3S plug-in hybrid sedan, GS4 PHEV SUV, and the battery electric crossover vehicle GE3.

Some of these, like the GE3 seen in the photo, will get the Trumpchi brand name. During the Detroit auto show in January, the company drew flak for how close the name was to the newly electric president’s surname. GAC Motor said that the brand had been chosen long before the election.

Yu said that his company’s product planning for new energy vehicles will have to stay open to market dynamics – and it’s still too early to tell whether BEVs, PHEVs, or fuel cell vehicles will dominate – or what type of vehicle will take off.

“In the area of new energy, the best practice is not to prescribe one certain formula. Enterprises should experiment and explore different pathways. The coexistence of many pathways might be the best choice now. It shall be up to the market,” he said.

China’s government policy if leaning toward zero emission vehicles, following the state of California’s lead. That mean PHEVs could fall out of favor, with BEVs and FCVs being necessities.

The automaker’s chief thinks that will take quite a few years, and BEVs and FCVs so far haven’t found popularity.

“I can still recall when some car manufacturer predicted the world would enter the age of hydrogen fuel. But how large are the sales of FCVs even in 2017? The situation for BEV seems better.

“But in China, without the supporting measures to limit the purchase and use of conventional vehicles and the high subsidies to purchase NEVs, consumers are still reluctant to buy electric cars. A market that survives on compulsory government policies will not be a sustainable one,” he said.

SEE ALSO:  China’s GAC Returned To Detroit Auto Show With An Electric Crossover

It’s not all about China and the U.S. for GAC Motor. The company has set up a global sales and service network for 14 countries.

The company has put into place strategic partnership with 10 major auto suppliers. One of these suppliers is Michelin, and GAC Motor was the only Chinese auto brand playing a visible role at its Michelin Movin’On 2017 summit last week, according to Green Car Congress.

Green Car Congress

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NTSB Says Tesla Driver Ignored Warnings Just Before Fatal Crash

A federal agency report found that a driver who was killed in his Tesla when it went under a tractor trailer last year failed to respond to repeated warnings from the car’s Autopilot system.

The 500-page report from the National Transportation Safety Board was released Monday disclosing findings from the May 2016 crash of Model S owner Joshua Brown on a Florida highway. The former Navy SEAL had collided with the truck without braking suggesting he never knew he was in danger before his roof was ripped off from the underside of the truck’s trailer.

Warnings included seven separate visual alerts that said “Hands Required Not Detected.” The NTSB found that during a 37-minute period, Brown was supposed to have his hands on the wheel but only did so for 25 seconds.

During six occasions, a chime sounded before issuing another warning.

The report also found that Brown had not been watching a video just prior to the crash. Media reports had asserted Brown had been distracted by watching a movie.

Attorney Jack Landskroner, who has been representing the Brown family, said the allegation raised by media whether Brown had been watching a movie was “unequivocally false,” and that the NTSB report should now lat that question to rest.

Landskroner said the family has otherwise not taken any legal action against Tesla and was still reviewing the NTSB report.

Tesla declined to comment on the report, but made statements last year that Autopilot was not intended to be a fully autonomous system driving the car. Drivers need to be responsive and aware while using the semi-autonomous system.

The automaker has been making enhancements to Autopilot since the second-generation version was released in January. One improvement has been that Tesla vehicles now have eight cameras that provide 360-degree visibility and 820 feet of range instead of the first version having just one camera.

SEE ALSO:  Autopilot 8.1’s ‘Summon’ Does Offer Brief Yet Fully Automated Feature

Tesla in September unveiled improvements in Autopilot, adding new limits on hands-off driving and other features that its chief executive officer said likely would have prevented the crash death. The updated system temporarily prevents drivers from using the system if they do not respond to audible warnings to take back control of the car.

In January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its own study findings that found no evidence of defects in the Autopilot system.

Florida Highway Patrol had charged the truck driver involved in the crash with a right of way traffic violation. The truck driver has a scheduled court hearing on Wednesday.

Reuters

 

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California Wants Part Of VW ‘Dieselgate’ Settlement To Go To Disadvantaged Communities

California Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign a state budget that will include Volkswagen “dirty diesel” settlement funds to be directed to disadvantaged communities.

It’s part of the $2 billion settlement in which $800 million will go the California for VW’s Electrify America program supporting zero emission vehicle adoption and increasing charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Of that $800 million, the U.S. division of the German automaker had proposed spending $120 million on more than 400 charging stations in California by 2019, but the proposal has been heavily criticized by automakers, charging station suppliers, and regulators.

California clean vehicle programs are being directed by legislators and the governor toward making air quality improvements in disadvantaged, low-income communities. These residents usually live near freeways packed with traffic and smog from heavy-duty trucks.

Automakers and charging station companies have complained that VW’s plan – which would have directed its charging stations to more than 400 highway and community chargers usually in high-traffic areas. Competitors had been hoping to set up their own charging stations and increase their sales presence in these areas.

Last month, the California Air Resources Board in a letter requested VW to “make every attempt” to invest 35 percent of the first 30-month investment cycle in disadvantaged communities. These communities have been disproportionately affected by air pollution, CARB said. VW’s plan had not included establishing presence in disadvantaged communities.

The bill was passed on Thursday by the state senate and assembly following CARB’s May suggested guidelines. CARB is being directed to “ensure to the maximum extent allowable” that at least 35 percent of investment funds go to low-income and disadvantaged communities. The Air Resources Board of directors will also have to approve all of VW’s plans at public hearings.

On Tuesday, Brown said he supported the budget package and is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

SEE ALSO:  California Answers VW’s $800M Dieselgate Settlement To Build ZEV Infrastructure

VW’s Electrify America project didn’t respond to Automotive News’ request for comments.

Last month, the automaker did confirm it will be investing $2 billion in line with court-approved settlements overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California officials.

Last month’s letter from CARB to VW also asked for more details on potential future investment in hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure in California. CARB wants VW’s ZEV Investment Plan to address potential investment in hydrogen fueling stations over the 10-year period.

Automotive News

 

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Refreshed Volkswagen Polo Available With Natural Gas Engine

Volkswagen has added a natural gas engine to its Polo compact car lineup as part of the launch of the refreshed compact car model.

The compressed natural gas Polo comes with a 1.0 TGI, a new three-cylinder engine that VW created for natural gas propulsion. The German automaker said the car that’s not for sale in the U.S. has an output of 66 kilowatts, or 90 PS (metric horsepower).

The new Polo had its world premiere in Berlin on Friday, the sixth generation of the popular compact car. The automaker said that with its 14 million units sold to date, the conventional Polo been one of the best-selling compact cars worldwide.

It’s larger in every dimension than its predecessor versions. The new model includes advanced features as several driver assistance systems that are available in the Golf and Passat class.

The new Polo will be launched throughout Europe before the year is out, with a number of Euro 6 engines being phase in. Euro 6 engines come from European Union guidelines on efficient internal combustion engines built with reduced emissions.

In addition, there will be a choice of four gasoline and two diesel engines for the Polo, all equipped as standard with start/stop system and regenerative braking mode.

These fuel efficient Polos, and the new CNG variation, are part of VW’s global campaign to distance itself from the “dirty diesel” crisis that started in September 2015.

VW has been looking closely at CNG-powered cars for quite some time now. The German automaker has been in talks with both Exxon Mobil and Russian natural gas company Gazprom about collaborating.

“We are now really trying to think out of the box and find solutions that can be helpful at least in this transition period of 10 to 20 years,” said VW CEO Matthias Mueller in an interview on Austria’s ORF radio last month, as reported by Autoweek.

SEE ALSO:  Can Volkswagen Reinvent Itself With Many More Electrified Cars?

Along with better-made diesel engines, CNG vehicles will be necessary for the current phase of complying with strict European emissions targets. VW has big plans ahead for electric vehicles, but for now diesel and natural gas engines are a necessity.

“Modern diesel and natural gas engines will absolutely be required to deliver CO2 targets until 2020, and they will also contribute to further reductions going on from there,” said Ulrich Eichhorn, VW’s new head of research and development last year.

 

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BMW 5-Series Plug-in Hybrids To Be Built by Magna

North America’s largest auto supplier Magna International will be producing the BMW 5-series plug-in hybrid at its Graz, Austria plant.

The Magna Steyr plant will start with the BMW 530e this summer, which is the first in the 5-Series plug-in hybrids.

Magna is in a unique position as an automotive supplier, the first to perform contract manufacturing for carmakers at mass scale. While several automakers work with specialty, high-end performance car partners, Magna will be able to produce about 200,000 cars a year at the Austrian plant.

The auto supplier, which is based in Canada, is preparing to produce Jaguar’s I-Pace electric SUV at the Graz plant starting early next year.

Magna Steyr started production of the refreshed BMW 5-Series in March. According to Automotive News it’s not clear whether that included the launch of the 530e i-Perfomance at the Magna plant, or whether BMW has been manufacturing that new model at one of its plants in Germany. It does appear that all of that all of the BMW 530e production will be taking place at Magna’s Austrian plant.

Austria may be well positioned geographically to build plug-in electrified vehicles in coming years. German automakers BMW, Volkswagen, and Daimler have set ambitious targets for electrified vehicle production and sales through 2025. The arrangement in all stands to save BMW money and space on its own production lines open to meeting growing demand for all types of vehicles.

Swamy Kotagiri, Magna’s chief technology officer, said that by 2025, 40 to 50 percent of all vehicles produced will include some electrified vehicle elements.

“We are setting up knowing the penetration will be higher,” he said.

SEE ALSO:  BMW Announces $51,400 Price Tag For 530e iPerformance Sedan

BMW already works with Magna at the Austrian plant, where non-electric Mini Countryman are build. Mercedes-Benz uses the plant for its G-Wagen SUV.

Demand from automakers has been strong enough for Magna to build a paint shop in Slovenia, which is still in the works.

In March, the Slovenian government issued a statement that Magna will potentially invest up to 1.24 billion euro ($1.4 billion) in the country. That could include a car plant with the potential to produce up to 100,000 to 200,000 vehicles per year; but Magna declined to comment.

Automotive News

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Lyft Running Autonomous Electric Fleet Powered By ‘100% Renewable Energy’

Ride-hailing company Lyft has committed to make sure that its fleet of electric, autonomous vehicles will be powered by “100% renewable energy.”

That doesn’t mean that all of these electric vehicles will only receive power through renewable energy like wind and solar. Lyft will use that fleet as the benchmark for purchasing renewable energy credits that offset any of the emissions associated with charging its electric autonomous vehicles – and operating non-electric vehicles in the automated fleet, the company said.

The “100% renewable energy” campaign will start with its recently enacted partnership with self-driving tech supplier NuTonomy. The two companies will be deploying a fleet of autonomous EVs on the streets of Boston starting later this year during a public trial project.

Lyft hopes that going this route will provide one billion rides per year using these autonomous EVs.

The company has been making a series of alliances with large companies such as Waymo and General Motors to jettison its presence in the future of advanced mobility.

Renewable energy credits, or certificates, are being utilized by several major U.S. companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and support climate change initiatives. The U.S. Department of Energy offers an online guide listing renewable energy providers in the U.S. participating in the program.

Each credit represents one megawatt-hour of renewable energy generated by a participating plant operator. These certificates are offered for purchase on the open market through brokers.

Lyft joined up with a coalition of businesses and local governments that pledged to follow the Paris climate change accord, no matter what President Donald Trump decided to do.

The ride-hailing firm also brought in environmentalist Paul Hawken, executive director of Project Drawdown, as its climate advisor.

Not all of the one billion self-driving vehicle rides offered by Lyft in 2025 will be electric.

It’s “possible we may test a variety of prototype vehicle types in the future during the developmental phases of this technology,” said a company spokesperson.

As EV technology matures, the company expects, “the vast majority of the vehicles on our platform will be electric,” he said.

Lyft’s founders believe that electric autonomous rides will ramp up EV sales.

“We believe that ridesharing, combined with autonomous vehicles, will be the driving force that brings electric vehicles from a tiny portion (~0.1 percent) of all cars on the road today to a significant majority within 20 years,” co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer wrote in a blog post.

SEE ALSO:  Waymo Partnering With Lyft On Self-Driving Technology

Green and Zimmer said that these automated EVs will do something that typical personal vehicles miss out on.

“The average car is used only 4 percent of the time and for electric vehicles, it takes 10 years or more to recover the cost premium through fuel savings. In comparison, Lyft vehicles can be used much more efficiently — an electric, autonomous Lyft vehicle will be utilized over 50% of the time and payback its costs in just a few years through operational savings,” they wrote.

The Verge

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West Virginia Center Finds FCA Have Up To 20-Times Allowable NOx Emissions

The university research center that uncovered the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal has conducted on-road tests with Fiat Chrysler vehicles greatly exceeding emissions standards.

Researchers at West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions (CAFEE) conducted real-world and laboratory tests on two diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and three diesel Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks during 2016. Tests found that route these vehicles released nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions exceeding government standards by 3-to-20 times during on-road driving.

While the model years weren’t given by CAFEE, FCA has been investigate by government agencies over emissions violations. In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board issued notices of violation to the automaker for alleged software that increases air pollution on certain Jeep and Ram diesel vehicles.

The notices were given on 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the U.S. That covered an estimated 104,000 affected vehicles.

Last Thursday FCA issued a statement on the CAFFEE release:

“FCA US has recently been made aware of on-road emissions testing conducted on two of the Company’s diesel-powered vehicles by West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions (CAFEE). Based upon court filings and discussions with CAFEE, this testing appears to have been commissioned by a plaintiffs’ law firm for purposes of litigation. ”

“FCA US has asked CAFEE to discuss its testing methodology and share the resulting data for the Company’s understanding, and to determine which on-road test results could conceivably be compared with results from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laboratory procedures. CAFEE has been unwilling to discuss the report.”

CAFEE had not issued a response to FCA’s assertions.

The WVU center had been the first to uncover the Volkswagen defeat device on diesel vehicles. VW admitted the violation when investigated by EPA and CARB representatives.

SEE ALSO:  FCA Gets Government Subpoenas Over Alleged Diesel Emissions Violations

The center has learned more about conducting emissions tests from the FCA field project.

“This type of testing – the combination of real-world and laboratory – allows us to learn more about the challenges that vehicle manufacturers face to produce cars with low emissions that also satisfy consumer expectations of performance,” said Dan Carder, director of the center. “These are opportunities to gather data and other information that can help both manufacturers and regulators find solutions, improve technology and provide better air quality.”

Carder, Marc Besch, research assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Sri Hari Chalagalla, an engineer at CAFEE, and a team of engineers and technicians had tested the vehicles.

On-road emissions testing used scaled-down version of traditional laboratory equipment called a portable emissions measurement system, or PEMS. It’s the size of a refrigerator and is powered by a generator. This “mobile lab” can fit into the back of a vehicle and analyzes its exhaust released while driving on a road.

Researchers studied different real-world driving factors from the exhaust pipe, including road and ambient conditions, traffic patterns, and terrain over two routes – an urban and a highway route – in the Morgantown, West Virginia, area.

“Testing vehicles on the road allows you to collect data from diverse driving conditions,” Besch said. “You can see how the vehicle technologies perform with different loads, vehicle speeds, ambient temperatures, etc.”

CAFEE engineers also tested the diesel vehicles in their lab. The vehicle would be placed on a light-duty chassis dynamometer, which serves as a large treadmill to simulate driving. The dynamometer was able to provide driving conditions that closely simulate driving out on the road.

The researchers used the same mobile lab equipment used on the road to analyze the vehicles’ exhaust in the laboratory.

Carder said that finding NOx emissions at a lower level does typically happen, but the factor of 20 drew their attention. But without U.S. standards for on-road, in-use emissions, an absolute comparison between real-world and laboratory isn’t possible at this time, he said.

“When looking at results averaged over a trip, we would not be surprised to find deviations of 3 to 4 times between on-road and lab conditions. Results that show an increase by a factor of 20 indicate different emissions control strategies, but the scope of our research doesn’t include whether those strategies have previously been negotiated between automakers and regulators or not,” Carder said.

CAFEE will provide the research data to help refine existing technology and advancements for the future – and to identify possible gaps between regulatory certification and compliance standards and real-world performance, he said.

“Clean diesel is not a myth,” Carder said. “When I started in this field more than 25 years ago, the heavy-duty standard for NOx was 6.0 g/bhp-hr, and we are now working on 0.02 g/bh-hr. As an industry, we have made a difference, and we will continue to do so.”

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New Study Outlines What’s Needed For PEVs To Boom Past 1% Sales

A new study says key market dynamics are ready to lead electric car sales beyond their current 1 percent of total U.S. new light-duty vehicle sales.

The study, written by Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of University of Michigan, has analyzed progress being made leading to wider acceptance of plug-in electrified vehicles.

One of the key indicators of market acceptance cited in the study has been looking at sales growth since the new technology was introduced to the U.S. market in late 2010. Sales of PEVs – including battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – have increased more than 700 percent in the U.S. since 2011.

That’s been a much faster growth rate than U.S. hybrid vehicle sales witnessed in the early 2000s, and that new model segments in internal combustion engines typically see in their first years.

One market dynamic that’s expected to play a part in sales growth, in the study, is that PEV pricing is coming down in the market and becoming more competitive with conventional gasoline-powered cars.

For conservative consumers who study the numbers, fuel economy ratings are looking good for both PHEVs and BEVs. The study found PHEVs to be 3.5 times more fuel efficient than comparable gasoline-engine vehicles and BEVs at about 4.5 times better fuel economy than conventional ICE-powered cars.

For environmentally concerned consumers, the argument is easy to make on PEVs emitting much lower greenhouse gas than ICEs on a well-to-wheels comparison. Those numbers are starting to look even better as more renewable energy is making its way to electric power in the U.S., the study says.

Driving range is getting much better – and is a key selling point for BEVs coming to market. The study finds that some of the longest-range BEVs are now capable of traveling distances similar to some PHEV and ICE vehicles.

Charging times are still much longer than gasoline-powered cars. PHEVs are taking away some of the concern for car shoppers. On the BEV side, the good news is that energy density is increasing and battery cost is decreasing.

The charging infrastructure is seeking positive signs, which makes up a big slice of the market dynamics influencing public opinion on PEVs. The study poits to rapid growth in public charging stations in recent years – making it up to about 16,000 stations currently available in the U.S.; these stations are providing about 35,000 individual charger connections.

Electricity prices have remained relatively low and stable – and are projected to do so over the next several decades. That provides PEVs with a competitive edge as consumers remember periods of gasoline price volatility in recent years.

“Smart” charging is also helping ease concerns over using electricity as the car’s power source. These systems being adopted by utilities across the country are able to optimize balancing of charging prices versus demand.

Growth in fast charging also seems to be helping, where networks such as Tesla’s Supercharger ports are seeing widespread growth across the country.

SEE ALSO:  EV Owners Slapped With Hefty Charging Fees During Peak Demand

The study also sees hope for PEV growth coming through public opinion and government support.

Vehicle sales trends are showing that interest in PEVs in recent years. Car owners are becoming more willing to consider a PEV it were offered in their current vehicle type preference – such as car, SUV, pickup truck, van, etc. The study also finds that interest should increase if PEV variations of their current vehicles were to become available.

Government incentives are playing their part at all levels – including grants available for advanced battery R&D and coming through federal tax rebates.

State rebates for PEVs are playing a big part as well. The study found that all but three states offer some form of financial incenetive for owning a PEV.

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SF Motors Opens US Offices Guided By Tesla Co-Founder

Chinese vehicle manufacturer Sokon has started a U.S.-based electric car brand, SF Motors, with offices in Santa Clara, Calif., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard will play a role in launching the U.S. brand SF Motors, which will build and sell its own electric cars.

The company last year acquired electric drive system maker AC Propulsion, along with two other electric drive companies. At that time, Eberhard signed a two-year contract with Sokon to help the company launch its U.S. brand.

Sokon is a maker of small utility trucks, vans, and buses with combustion engines. It’s part of Chinese parent company Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co. It has market capitalization of 15.88 billion yuan ($2.3 billion).

SF Motors has its headquarters in Silicon Valley and a development facility in Michigan, and autonomous vehicles seems to be part of its future. The startup has been hiring talent, with open positions including Supply Chain Manager and Director of Autonomous Driving.

While facilities are now open, Sokon said it will officially launch the SF Motors brand “in the coming months.” No information has been released on what types of electric cars will be coming to the U.S. market – and whether that will include the parent company’s utility vehicles.

SEE ALSO:  Future Mobility Confident Over Gaining China’s Approval For 2019 EV Launch

In February, Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co. was one of 10 startups that received production permits from the Chinese government to build plug-in electrified vehicles. Eberhard was named as an advisor to the company in the filing

Eberhard had been one of three Tesla founders who had brought in Elon Musk as the company’s first investor. He was later fired by CEO Musk as the company went through a shakeup and changeover from its initial business model.

Ian Wright, another co-founder, had left Tesla already. In 2011, he started Wrightspeed, a manufacturer of aftermarket microturbine-powered plug-in hybrid powertrains.

 

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DS Automobiles Aims To Release a New Electrified Vehicle Every Year

French carmaker PSA Groupe’s premium brand DS Automobiles has announced it will be releasing a new electrified model each year, starting with the DS 7 Crossback.

The DS 7 Crossback E-Tense will have a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 300 horsepower and 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) of battery range. An SUV will arrive in spring 2019.

DS Automobiles is taking lessons learned from its part competing in the Formula E electric racing series over to its electrified models. The DS team has participated in races held in Monaco, Paris and Berlin, soon to be followed by those in New York and Montreal. This offers the automaker an opportunity test and evaluate new technologies for future production models.

“A competition series involving all-electric race cars obviously makes an ideal testing environment for our forthcoming technologies. With each successive race or test-session, we’re accelerating this development and every new component to achieve a better understanding of how to optimize the electric motor drivetrain and the management of energy in particular with cooling in mind,” said Xavier Mestelan Pinon, DS Performance director.

The DS 7 Crossback’s gasoline engine has 200 hprsepower THP (Turbo High Pressure). It also carries two 80 kW electric motors to drive each axle. The company said that the SUV is capable of producing a total deployable power output of 300 horsepower with four-wheel-drive.

With energy loss being a challenge for automotive engineering teams working on electrified vehicles, the Formula E series has been an ideal testing ground. Developing the DSV-02 (DS Virgin 2nd generation) race car with its top speed of 140 mph has been part of it.

“In their year-long work on developing the DSV-02, the team of 10 engineers and the accompanying host of technicians identified a number of ways for optimizing the operating efficiency of the electric motor and transmission system, and the most-suitable aspects of which are being developed for the road-going petrol-electric PHEV drivetrain of the forthcoming DS 7 Crossback E-tense,” the company said.

The DS 7 Crossback comes with the automaker’s new Efficient Automatic Transmission with 8-speeds (EAT8) located between the internal combustion engine and electric motor.

SEE ALSO:  PSA Group Ups Plug-in Vehicle Count to 27 New Models by 2023

The company plans to have more than a third of DS vehicles sold in hybrid or all-electric versions by 2025. Three specific projects already in their advanced stages, with the Formula E series being ideal for testing out the new technology, the company said.

In March, parent company PSA Group said that its count of plug-in electrified vehicles launched in the next few years will more than double from the initial goal of 11 up to 27 models. These will be coming out through the Peugeot, Citroen, and DS brands.

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Proterra Gets $55M Backing From BMW And Al Gore’s Investment Firm

California-based electric busmaker Proterra just scored $55 million through a funding round backed by BMW i Ventures and Al Gore.

Proterra announced yesterday the funding was led by Generation Investment Management LLP, which was joined by BMW i Ventures, the German automaker’s corporate venture capital team.

Former Vice President Gore serves as chairman at Generation Investment Management, a long-term, sustainability focused investment firm.

“More than ever before, cities are looking for sustainable transportation solutions that can reduce pollution efficiently and effectively. Proterra is incredibly well positioned to help accelerate the growth of sustainable cities and continue our transition to a clean energy economy,” Gore said.

The busmaker has been doing well in seeking financial backers. Proterra said that the $55 million Series 6 round has just closed, and that it followed on the heels of an “oversubscribed” $140 million Series 5 in January. That means the Series 5 security was underpriced or in greater demand than had been expected at its launch.

The new funding round will support its east and west coast production facilities and its commitment to creating technology innovation. Those facilities are located in South Carolina and Los Angeles. Tech innovation will be carried out at its headquarters office in Silicon Valley.

Proterra claims to have 60 percent of the market share in North America’s electric transit market; with Chinese manufacturer BYD likely coming in second.

The company reports having sold more than 400 Proterra electric buses across the country including Seattle, Dallas, Nashville, San Jose, Philadelphia, and Reno.

Proterra says it will remain committed to cultivating a talented workforce. That talent has been behind the recent launch of the autonomous bus development project in partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno, Proterra said.

SEE ALSO:  Proterra Rolls Out New Electric Bus that Can Average 350 Miles

Generation Growth Equity has been investing in startups for several years through its mission of “embedding sustainability into mainstream capital markets.” Other investments have included electric vehicles, bike sharing, and fleet management technology.

This is BMW i Venture’s first investment in heavy duty EV manufacturing. The company said that it ties into support it wants to show for electric mass transit.

“BMW i Ventures invests in companies that will transform mobility and transportation, and Proterra is pushing the mass transit industry forward with the most innovative heavy-duty electric bus,” said Zach Barasz, partner at BMW i Ventures. “Due to Proterra’s efforts, electric mass transit is overtaking fossil-fuel buses as the new standard.”

 

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Tesla Model X Tops NHTSA SUV Safety Ratings

The Tesla Model X became the first-ever SUV to earn a 5-star safety rating across the board from the federal safety agency.

In its company blog, Tesla today announced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Model X a 5-star safety rating in every category and subcategory covered during its independent testing.

The company said that the Model X represents the lowest probability of injury for any SUV ever tested. In the context of all vehicles the federal agency has ever tested, the Model X’s overall probability of injury was second only to the Model S, according to Tesla.

Tesla thinks that having to protect the battery pack during the design phase helped it surmount the controversial issue of the SUV potentially rolling over. The large battery pack had to be mounted beneath the floor of the SUV, creating a center of gravity so low it gives the Model X the lowest rollover probability of any SUV on the road.

“No other SUV has ever come close to meeting and exceeding this rollover requirement,” Tesla said.

The nine subcategories tested by NHTSA included frontal impact, side impact, and pole impact. Testing also explored intrusion into the cabin and how energy is absorbed during a crash; and how well the seatbelt and airbag systems work.

Tesla said that gaining 5-star ratings in all categories and subcategories means that Model X passengers have an overall 93 percent probability of avoiding a serious injury from the crash.

SEE ALSO:  Rear Seat Crash Safety Concern Prompts Tesla Model X Recall

The Tesla Model S earned the highest-ever NHTSA crash test safety rating in 2013.

In January of this year, the federal safety agency ruled that Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous system had not caused the May 2016 fatal Florida crash in a Tesla Model S.

During April 2016, the electric automaker conducted its own voluntary recall of 2,700 Model X vehicles. The hinge for a third-row seat had failed during tests, which could collapse forward in some accidents and had to be replaced in these affected vehicles.

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Apple CEO Sheds Light On How Company Views Autonomous Vehicles

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the tech giant may or may not manufacture its own self-driving car, but it does sees the technology as the “mother of all AI projects.”

During an interview with Bloomberg Television filmed on June 5, Cook shed some light on a subject that’s been shrouded in mystery over the past couple of years.

Apple has been investing heavily in artificial intelligence used in products like the Apple Watch. Autonomous vehicles has been one of the technologies gaining Apple investments and bringing in a lot of highly paid talent – but the company has been secretive about it.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

It’s central to Apple’s mission going forward, but it’s an extremely challenging technology to gain a foothold in, he said.

“We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” Cook said. “It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”

Cook said that for Silicon Valley companies, autonomous vehicles is one of three that has to be taken on – the other two being electric vehicles and ride-hailing services.

“You’ve got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame,” he said.

The Apple CEO is optimistic about the future of EVs. Apple has watched one if Silicon Valley neighbors, Tesla, surge into the center of EVs and become the world’s fourth largest automaker by market capitalization as its’ stock price continues to increase.

He is fascinated with the EV driving experience.

“It’s a marvelous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station,” Cook said.

Apple held back on comments during news coverage of Project Titan, which was said to be an electric autonomous car that the company was planning on manufacturing. The tech giant had hired more than 1,000 engineers to work on Project Titan after starting it up in 2014.

Apple veteran Bob Mansfield was brought back in during 2016 to run the self-driving car unit, which led to more speculation about the company’s role in the technology.

In April, the company was granted permits to test three self-driving SUVs by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. A half dozen autonomous vehicles had been tested on public roads in the San Francisco bay area for at least a year, according to a source familiar with Project Titan.

In December a letter sent by Apple to the to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed more on the company’s interest and enthusiasm in automated systems that could be used in vehicles.

The Silicon Valley company demonstrated its interest and enthusiasm in the third cutting-edge AI vector, ride hailing, last year. In May 2016, Apple invested $1 billion in China’s largest ride-hailing firm, Didi Chuxing.

Didi had been in cutthroat competition for business in China against ride-hailing giant Uber. In July of last year, Uber agreed to pull out of the market and stop competing with Didi for $1 billion.

Prior to that deal, Mansfield had laid off hundreds of engineers on Project Titan. It appeared that the company was scaling back its plans from being a vehicle manufacturer over to building an autonomous driving system.

SEE ALSO: Apple May Partner With Bosch On Autonomous Electric Drive

Google appears to have gone that route as well, testing it self-driving system and making deals with automakers and other partners such as ride-hailing firm Lyft.

It could go either way, though.

Apple will make an announcement later this year on its role in autonomous vehicle systems, and whether that will include manufacturing these cars, according to people familiar with the matter.

During the Bloomberg Television interview, Cook held back on answering that question.

“We’ll see where it takes us,” he said. “We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”

Automotive News

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