Chinese robotaxi unicorn WeRide bags over $600M in 5 months

It’s hard to keep up with the fundraising spree in China’s autonomous driving industry these days. Guangzhou- and California-based robotaxi company WeRide, which counts Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance as one of its strategic investors, has raised over $600 million in just under five months from its Series B and C financing rounds.

The four-year-old upstart said in May that its valuation leaped to $3.3 billion in its Series C fundraising. WeRide has kept details of the backing privy until today when it disclosed the investment was a lofty sum of $310 million from Alliance Ventures, a strategic venture capital fund operated by Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, China Structural Reform Fund, a Chinese state-owned private equity fund, and Pro Capital, which manages China’s CDB Equipment Manufacturing Funds.

It’s unclear how much WeRide has raised since its inception as some of its investments were undisclosed. It pulled in “tens of millions of dollars” from a Series A round.

This is the second time Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi has shelled out money for WeRide following its initial strategic investment back in 2018. The follow-on funding came as the two companies strengthen ties to develop Level 4 driving vehicles for the Chinese market. Electric cars from the Dongfeng-Nissan joint venture, automated by WeRide software, have been providing robotaxi service in Guangzhou for 18 months. WeRide uses Nissan vehicles in California for research and development.

Ashwani Gupta, COO of Nissan, gave an assuring statement about the partnership: “As China stands at the forefront of helping define the future of mobility, we are delighted to partner with WeRide to bring even more innovative technologies and services to enrich people’s lives in China.”

WeRide similarly sounded rosy about the alliance with Nissan. “Throughout the past three years, they have been playing a critical role in supporting WeRide’s autonomous driving platform, hence, enabling us to establish a leading fleet of robotaxis,” said Tony Han, WeRide founder and CEO .

“With the continued support of Nissan, we will accelerate the commercial use of our driverless robotaxis in China.”

#alliance-ventures, #asia, #cars, #china, #funding, #mitsubishi, #nissan, #renault, #robotaxi, #robotics, #transportation, #weride

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These are the 9 worst states to buy an electric car in

America is a land of contrasts.

Enlarge / America is a land of contrasts. (credit: stellalevi/Getty Images)

William Gibson’s quote about the future being here, just not very evenly distributed, is a cliché at this point. But I was reminded of it this morning when I saw a new report on electric vehicle accessibility. Compiled by the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), the report scores all 50 states based on how hard they make it to buy an EV, whether that’s banning direct-to-consumer sales or requiring extra registration fees or road charges. Unsurprisingly, the United States is a bit of a patchwork in this regard. But it’s not quite as simple as red states making it hard and blue states making it easy to buy an EV.

The top 10

Ten states score top marks with the CCC: Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. All these states will allow direct sales of cars to individuals, and none will make you pay more to register your new EV than you’d pay for a new car with an internal combustion engine (ICE). (The District of Columbia would also go in this group if DC-based CCC had included it.)

California is conspicuous by its absence in that top 10. The state is the leading market for EVs within the US, with the highest adoption rate and the most public chargers. Nearly half of all US-registered EVs are on its roads. But California also has an escalating EV license fee that’s currently $100 but is now linked to the consumer price index.

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#cars, #consumer-choice-center, #electric-vehicle-adoption, #electric-vehicles

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Planes, trains, but not automobiles—why GM is developing fuel cells

Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars.

Enlarge / Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars. (credit: Scharfsinn86/Getty Images)

In just the last week, General Motors signed agreements with not one but two companies to develop applications for its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems. At first glance, that might seem a little surprising, since last week we also saw Honda discontinue its hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the Clarity. That move was just the latest bit of support for the hypothesis that hydrogen power might join Betamax and the Zune in the history books.

In fact, the history books are where you’ll find GM’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, the 1966 Electrovan. And in recent years we’ve seen some fuel cell EVs developed by GM for military applications. But neither of these new deals involves making a hydrogen-powered car.

Instead, last Tuesday the automaker announced it would work with Wabtec—which has already developed a battery-electric locomotive—to engineer freight locomotives powered by GM’s fuel cells and batteries. Then, on Thursday, GM revealed it was working with Liebherr-Aerospace to develop aerospace applications (like auxiliary power generation) for fuel cells. Intrigued, I spoke to Charlie Freese, GM’s executive director for Global Hydrotec and the man in charge of GM’s fuel cell program. Why does the company still think the lightest gas only has room to expand?

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#airplanes, #cars, #fcev, #general-motors, #gm, #h2, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-fuel-cell, #hydrotec, #trains, #trucks

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Porsche will build a high-performance battery factory in Germany

Porsche plans to first use these new silicon anode cells in motorsports, but we don't know where that will be yet, since Formula E and LMDh will both require a spec battery. This car is the Porsche 920 concept from 2020.

Enlarge / Porsche plans to first use these new silicon anode cells in motorsports, but we don’t know where that will be yet, since Formula E and LMDh will both require a spec battery. This car is the Porsche 920 concept from 2020. (credit: Porsche)

Porsche is setting up a new factory for battery cells, called Cellforce, in Tübingen, Germany. The plant will be run as a subsidiary of Porsche in a joint venture with Customcells and will develop cells that use silicon as opposed to graphite for the anode material.

“We already started within research and pre-development to build up know how and knowledge about cell chemistry, and the company Cellforce Group will have around 60 engineers in development and about 20 in production; the main focus, at least in the beginning, is to take care about the development of the cell and cell chemistry,” said Michael Steiner, member of the executive board, R&D at Porsche.

But unlike other recent battery factory announcements, the goal for Cellforce is high performance, not high volume.

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#battery-factory, #cars, #cellforce, #customcells, #lithium-silicon, #lithium-ion-battery, #motorsport, #porsche, #racing, #silicon-anode

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Lordstown Motors now says that it has no binding orders for EV truck

A silver Lordstown Endurance truck on stage with a big American flag

Enlarge / In June 2020, Lordstown held an hour-long election rally for the Trump campaign disguised as an event to unveil the Endurance electric pickup truck. (credit: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, we wrote about how Lordstown Motors stated that the company’s Endurance electric pickup truck would enter limited production later this year. The statements were made at a press conference on Tuesday, where Lordstown President Rich Schmidt told journalists that the company had “binding orders” that would fund production until May 2022.

This happened just days after the company issued a going concern warning and a day after Lordstown then parted company with its CEO and CFO. But on Thursday morning, Lordstown sent the US Securities and Exchange Commission a new Form 8-K, revealing that, actually, those binding orders are nothing of the sort.

In the 8-K, Lordstown explains that since March 2021, it has been working with a company called ARI Global Fleet Management, which is owned by the Holman dealership group. Fleet management companies sometimes lease vehicles to their customers, and Lordstown and ARI have been working to “co-market and co-develop business opportunities with our respective customers” with the hope that ARI would persuade some of its leasing clients to order the Endurance EV pickup truck.

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #lordstown-endurance, #lordstown-motors, #sec, #securities-and-exchange-commission

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Lordstown Motors’ new boss says the company has cash through May 2022

Lordstown Motors' factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

Enlarge / Lordstown Motors’ factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

It’s been a tough time recently for Lordstown Motors. The Ohio-based electric truck startup was accused of misleading investors about the extent of its order books, which led to an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission; this in turn led the company to issue a “going concern” warning, followed by the departure of its CEO and CFO.

But on Tuesday, a day after the executive resignations, the company stated that limited production of its Endurance work truck will begin later this year. Lordstown’s president Rich Schmidt told journalists at a press event that there were enough “binding orders” to fund this limited production until May 2022, according to Techcrunch.

Schmidt said that Lordstown has more than $400 million in the bank, but it will need extra investment if it is to produce more than 20,000 EVs or continue operations beyond next May. The company raised $675 million in October 2020 after merging with a special-purpose acquisition company.

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-vehicle, #lordstown-motors, #spac

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Polestar picks the US to build its next electric vehicle

An SUV underneath a white sheet

Enlarge / This is as much of the Polestar 3 as the company is ready to share right now. But the SUV goes into production in 2022. (credit: Polestar)

On Wednesday morning, the electric carmaker Polestar revealed that it will build its forthcoming SUV in the United States. Polestar is a joint venture between Volvo and Geely, and so it therefore makes sense that US Polestar production will take place at Volvo’s plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina.

“Polestar 3 will be built in America, for our American customers. I remember the great response when I first shared Polestar’s vision here in the USA and I am proud that our first SUV will be manufactured in South Carolina. From now on, the USA is no longer an export market but a home market,” said Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath.

“Production in the USA reduces delivery times as well as the environmental impact associated with shipping vehicles around the world. It will even have a positive impact on the price of Polestar 3,” said Polestar COO Dennis Nobelius.

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#cars, #electric-suv, #polestar, #south-carolina, #volvo

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BMW finds its mojo again with the $55,400 i4 electric sedan

Remember when the BMW 3 Series was the byword for a sporty-slash-luxurious sedan? With an image bolstered by halo cars like the M3, the small BMW four-door was the car to have, particularly if you enjoyed driving. But for the last few years, it has felt like BMW has been missing some of its mojo. The German company built up early expertise in electrification but failed to capitalize on it, ceding a lot of ground to Tesla’s Model 3 electric sedan as BMW instead built a bewildering array of crossovers with ever-larger kidney grilles.

BMW got a new CEO and an order to amp up the electrification effort in 2019, and now the results of that project are right around the corner. Obviously, a lot will depend on how the car drives, but BMW just brought one of its new electric i4s to Washington, DC, and after having a good poke around, I can say that Bavarian Motor Works has its groove back.

My thesis can be boiled down pretty simply: the car looks good, the specs look good, and the price looks good.

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#bmw, #bmw-3-series, #bmw-4-series, #bmw-4-series-gran-coupe, #bmw-i4-edrive40, #cars, #electric-car, #fastback

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Electric work truck startup Lordstown Motors just lost its CEO and CFO

Lordstown Motors says it will begin limited production of the Endurance EV truck later in 2021.

Enlarge / Lordstown Motors says it will begin limited production of the Endurance EV truck later in 2021. (credit: Lordstown Motors)

Life just isn’t getting any easier for Lordstown Motors. Last week, the startup issued a “going concern” warning, telling investors that it might not be able to start production of its electric work truck without a fresh infusion of cash. We saw the consequences on Monday morning, as the company announced that CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez have resigned. Angela Strand has been appointed as executive chairwoman and will helm Lordstown until a new CEO is appointed, with Becky Roof serving as Interim CFO.

Lordstown Motors emerged from another beleaguered startup called Workhorse, which planned to produce a plug-in hybrid work truck made from carbon fiber. But in 2018, the stock market was much less willing to hand out gigantic blank checks to electric vehicle startups, and that hybrid truck was shelved. Workhorse’s then-CEO Steve Burns departed the company.

On his way out, Burns licensed some of Workhorse’s technology (involving hub-mounted motors for each wheel), which formed the basis for Lordstown Motors. Lordstown would make a battery EV pickup instead of a plug-in hybrid truck, and it would do so in a former General Motors factory in Lordstown, Ohio (giving the new startup its name).

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-truck, #ev-truck, #lordstown-motors, #pickup-truck, #spac

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British veterans set a new hypermiling record of 9.14 miles per kWh

I’m a little out of step with the mainstream when it comes to electric vehicle efficiency. I believe that as long as your electricity is clean and your battery has enough range to get you where you’re going (with the occasional DC fast-charge for a longer trip), even the least efficient EV will beat anything with an internal combustion engine—particularly if that EV replaces something inefficient like a sports car or a big SUV. Most people think this idea isn’t enough, though, and whoever can go the farthest on the fewest kWh wins.

As of Thursday, there’s a new winner. A British veterans nonprofit called Mission Motorsport spent 24 hours driving a pair of Renault Zoes (with 52 kWh battery packs) around the Thruxton racetrack in England. The 2.4-mile (3.8-km) circuit is one of the UK’s fastest, but the record-setting Zoe averaged around 19 mph (30.5 km/h). That was good for 475.4 miles (765 km) on a single charge, which works out to be 9.14 miles/kWh (14.71 km/kWh).

The winning Zoe was entirely standard, except for a set of tires developed by a company called Enso. The second Zoe ran on its factory-fitted rubber and still managed 424.7 miles. That’s a lot better than the car’s WLTP range of 245 miles (394 km) and works out to an efficiency of 8.16 miles/kWh (13.13 km/kWh).

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #cars, #electric-car, #electric-vehicle-range, #energy-efficiency, #ev-range, #hypermiling, #mission-motorsport, #renault-zoe, #veterans

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Tesla takes aim at upstarts with 390-mile range, 200 mph Model S Plaid

On Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to a stage in Fremont, California, to debut the production Model S Plaid. The Model S redefined our expectations of an electric car when it was first introduced. But it has remained little changed since 2016 as Tesla has focused on the cheaper but much higher volume Models 3 and Y. Five years is a long time in the car world, and others in the industry—notably Lucid and Mercedes-Benz—have the potential to change what was once the default answer to the question “what’s the best, fanciest electric car I can buy?”

The Model S Plaid is Tesla’s response to all the upstarts, and the first 25 vehicles will meet their new owners on Friday. “Then [Tesla] basically should be at several hundred cars per week soon and a thousand cars per week next quarter,” Musk told attendees.

Unfortunately, we’re light on technical specs—Tesla got rid of those kinds of resources when it decided to do away with a press office. Its three-motor powertrain provides a peak power of 1,020 hp (760 kW). That’s sufficient for a sub-2 second time in the 0-60 mph (0-98 km/h) dash (with a rollout) and a 9.23-second 1/4-mile time, which really is quick. Top speed will be 200 mph (321 km/h), but if you plan to drive that fast, you’ll have to wait until the fall, when the right tires and wheels are available.

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#cars, #elon-musk, #tesla, #tesla-model-s-plaid

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Self-driving Waymo trucks to haul loads between Houston and Fort Worth

Will Waymo's autonomous truck honk its horn for little kids on the freeway?

Enlarge / Will Waymo’s autonomous truck honk its horn for little kids on the freeway? (credit: Waymo)

On Thursday morning, Waymo announced that it is working with trucking company JB Hunt to autonomously haul cargo loads in Texas. Class 8 JB Hunt trucks equipped with the autonomous driving software and hardware system called Waymo Driver will operate on I-45 in Texas, taking cargo between Houston and Fort Worth.

However, the trucks will still carry humans—a trained truck driver and Waymo technicians—to supervise and take over if necessary.

Although Waymo is better known for the autonomous taxi service it operates in a suburb of Phoenix, the company started experimenting with adding its autonomous technology to freight haulers several years ago. And in 2018, it began testing those trucks in the Atlanta area. What makes today’s news more notable is the partnership with a major truck operator.

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#autonomous-driving, #cars, #class-8-truck, #freight, #jb-hunt, #self-driving, #truck-freight, #waymo

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What would you pay for autonomous driving? Volkswagen hopes $8.50 per hour

A yellow VW bus concept car drives past the beach, with surfboards on its roof

Enlarge / This one is destined to go on sale in 2023. You can watch a short video we made about it back in 2017. (credit: Volkswagen)

The future of driving may cost you $8.50 per hour if Volkswagen follows through on its boardroom musings.

The German automaker is considering charging an hourly fee for access to autonomous driving features once those features are ready. The company is also exploring a range of subscription features for its electric vehicles, including “range or performance” increases that can be purchased on an hourly or daily basis, said Thomas Ulbrich, a Volkswagen board member, to the German newspaper Die Welt. Ulbrich said the first subscription features will appear in the second quarter of 2022 in vehicles based on Volkswagen’s MEB platform, which underpins the company’s new ID.3 compact car and ID.4 crossover.

The executive said that Volkswagen will also offer video games in cars, similar to Tesla’s arcade. “In the charging breaks, even if they only last 15 minutes, we want to offer customers something,” Ulbrich said. He said the automaker wouldn’t be developing the games themselves, and it’s not clear whether they’ll come preinstalled or be available for purchase through an app store.

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#autonomous-driving, #cariad, #cars, #subscriptions, #volkswagen

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Lordstown Motors warns its electric vehicle business may fail

a rendering of the Lordstown Motors Endurance

Enlarge / This is a rendering of the Lordstown Motors Endurance, which may never be built. (credit: Lordstown Motors)

Electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors said Tuesday it does not have enough money to start commercial production and runs the risk of failing as a business, sending its stock tumbling.

The company on Tuesday amended its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission to say in one year it may no longer function as “a going concern.”

The company said that with its current cash and cash equivalents of $587 million as of the end of the first quarter, it did not have enough funding to launch the Endurance, an electric pickup truck geared toward commercial operators.

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#bevs, #cars, #electric-trucks, #lordstown-endurance, #lordstown-motors

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Ford builds an affordable, efficient small truck: The new Maverick

America’s love affair with the truck shows no signs of abating. The country buys millions of them each year, providing the bread and butter for domestic automakers. But not everyone is well-served by the products on offer. Some might want a truck but are turned off by their ever-increasing size, particularly hood heights that hide small pedestrians. Others are put off by the poor efficiency. Enter Ford. After blowing everyone’s socks off with its electric F-150 Lightning, the Blue Oval is back with yet another truck, but this one’s small, efficient, and cheap—it’s the new Ford Maverick.

Unlike its bigger siblings, the Maverick uses a monocoque chassis construction rather than a body on frame. At just under 200 inches (5,072 mm) in length, it’s significantly shorter than the (232-inch/5,885-mm) F-150, and smaller even than the Ranger. And that means a shorter and lower hood and, therefore, a smaller forward blind spot, which will be welcome news to pedestrians, cyclists, and road users with small cars.

Under that small hood, you’ll find a hybrid powertrain that combines a 162 hp (120 kW), 155 lb-ft (210 Nm), 2.5 L four-cylinder gasoline engine (that operates on the more efficient Atkinson cycle) with a 126 hp (94 kW), 173 lb-ft (235 Nm) permanent magnet electric motor. Together, they provide 191 hp (142 kW) to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.

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#cars, #ford, #ford-maverick, #hybrid-truck, #pickup-truck

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Schumacher, Senna, and co-op multiplayer are new additions for F1 2021

This year's installment of the official Formula 1 game, <em>F1 2021</em>, arrives on PCs and consoles on July 16.

Enlarge / This year’s installment of the official Formula 1 game, F1 2021, arrives on PCs and consoles on July 16. (credit: Codemasters)

If you’ve ever wanted to race with Formula 1 legends like Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna, your wish could come true later this summer—sort of. The iconic drivers and their driving styles have been put into F1 2021, which arrives on consoles and PCs in July.

“We’ve always spoken about ‘wouldn’t it be cool to have as your teammate the drivers that we all remember?’ And that’s exactly what we’ve done,” said Lee Mather, franchise game director at Codemasters, who briefed Ars on the new game recently.

Mather’s team started programming the game’s AI to race like the sport’s current stars in last year’s F1 2020. “We put so much time and effort and science into how you do driver ratings [for F1 2020] and how you manage those on a race-by-race basis. So we built the data [ranking different attributes for each of the current F1 drivers] and then we updated every three or four grands prix,” Mather explained.

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#cars, #codemasters, #ea-sports, #electronic-arts, #f1, #f1-2021, #formula-1, #gaming-culture, #michael-schumacher, #racing-game

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Ancient electric cars meet modern EVs at Amelia Island show

AMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA—It’s rare to see an electric vehicle among the polished and restored vintage cars of a concours d’elegance. (That’s French for a very fancy car show.) And that’s despite the fact that electric power was a credible alternative to the internal combustion engine for the first few decades of the automobile. But this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance went some way to rectifying that. Under the oppressive humidity, nestled between the usual concours fare of interwar phaetons and a wonderful assortment of Porsche 935s, there was an entire class of ancient EVs on display.

And what a varied class it was. A marvelously named Electrobat IV 1895 was the oldest EV to take to the well-manicured golf course. They were still in the earliest stages of figuring out this whole automobile thing 126 years ago and the Electrobat IV, running on skinny buggy tires, still looks like it’s missing its horse. But the real innovation that Pedro Salem and Henry Morris came up with for the Electrobat was its electric powertrain, consisting of a 1.5 hp (1.1 kW) motor and a 350 lb (159 kg) battery. They went on to build a fleet of Electrobat taxis that operated in New York at the beginning of the last century.

The Waverley Electric from 1901 was nearly primitive, and again there’s the impression that it’s incomplete without an accompanying equine. But the 1901 Waverley rides on pneumatic treaded tires, it has headlights, and is powered by a 2.5 hp (1.8 kW) motor. A Waverley Four-Passenger Coupe from 1910 shows how far the Indianapolis-based company developed over a decade; while obviously an antique, the red two-door fits most definitions of a car.

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#amelia-island-concours-delegance, #cars, #electric-cars, #electric-vehicles, #electrobat, #vintage-electric-cars, #vintage-evs, #waverley

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“Kind of crazy”—how the booming US used car market is driving inflation

“Kind of crazy”—how the booming US used car market is driving inflation

Enlarge (credit: Nathan Mattise)

Last month it took Carey Cherner, a 36-year-old used car dealer in Kensington, Maryland, less than 12 hours to sell a 2001 Ford F-150 pick-up truck with 184,000 miles on the clock. It went for $7,500—50 percent higher than usual.

Cherner’s experience was not a one-off in the US used car market, where prices are rising rapidly. The industry is at the heart of the country’s growing inflationary pressures—and has therefore become a subject of great interest to policymakers in Washington.

“There’s more people buying cars than there are cars in the market, which makes it go kind of crazy,” Cherner said.

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#cars, #used-cars

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Here’s why Toyota converted this Corolla to hydrogen and went racing

In late May, a special Toyota Corolla entered the track at Fuji Speedway in Japan to take part in a 24-hour race. Unlike the other cars in the race, this one was hydrogen-powered. But it didn’t use a fuel cell like the Mirai sedan; instead, this car’s three-cylinder engine was converted to burn the gas instead of burning gas(oline). The driver line-up for the car showed why. Among the racers listed was a “Morizo,” better known to the world as Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Company’s president.

No pressure, then.

“The reason for competing in a 24-hour endurance race is that simply lasting three or five hours is not enough. You have to have done the preparation to last for 24 hours,” Toyoda said in the weeks before the race. There’s no doubt about it—completing a 24-hour race is no easy thing, and the crucible of racing will often reveal problems that engineers don’t encounter on the test bench.

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#akio-toyoda, #cars, #endurance-racing, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-car, #hydrogen-internal-combustion, #racing, #toyota, #toyota-corolla

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This Range Rover Classic restomod runs on Tesla power

KISSIMMEE, Fla.—At the upper end of the automotive market, there exists the restomod. A portmanteau of restoration and modification, the restomod is usually a reimagining of a classic car, with a fit and finish far in excess of factory spec—and a price tag to match. It’s a less conventional alternative to spending six figures on a supercar and a great way to stand out from the crowd (or blend in, depending on how stealth you go). And nothing in the world of restomodding appeals to me as much as the electric conversion.

Some classic cars lend themselves to the electric restomod treatment better than others—like the gloss-white 1995 Range Rover Classic you see in the photos here. No one’s really going to miss its old Rover V8, originally originally an engine of Buick design as nerds will know. And while you could replace it with a modern V8 fresh out of a crate (as is the case for most of ECD Automotive’s restomods), doesn’t a Tesla drive motor and some Tesla lithium-ion sound a whole lot cooler?

It looks a lot cooler under the hood of the electric Range Rover, too. Instead of an oily engine bay, you find one of the two battery packs, nestled with ancillaries like the cooling system beneath a custom cover. The other pack is at the far end, where it takes up some (but not too much) space in the cargo area. In total, the batteries amount to 100 kWh, good for about 220 miles (350 km) of range. The packs feed a single 450 hp (335 kW) drive motor from a Tesla Model S, mounted roughly where the transmission used to be so they can drive the front and rear axles in a 50:50 torque split.

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#cars, #ecd-automotive-design, #electric-suv, #range-rover, #range-rover-classic, #restomod, #tesla

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Pirelli puts a wireless sensor in its new tire for the McLaren Artura

The new McLaren Artura plug-in hybrid supercar will be the first production car to use tires with built-in monitoring sensors.

Enlarge / The new McLaren Artura plug-in hybrid supercar will be the first production car to use tires with built-in monitoring sensors. (credit: McLaren)

When the McLaren Artura reaches the road later this year, it will do so riding on the world’s first “Cyber Tires.” Made by Pirelli, the tires feature an evolution of the tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) that are now fitted to new cars. Normally, those sensors are in a car’s wheels, but Pirelli has here embedded them in the construction of the tire, where they measure pressure, temperature, and acceleration.

That little snippet of information from the Artura press briefing left me intrigued, if a little skeptical. So I reached out to Pirelli to see if it could convince me that smart tires are a good idea.

“Now we have the technology to install at industrial level a sensor inside the tire and, most of all, integrate the sensor into the car itself,” said Piero Misani, Pirelli’s senior VP of R&D. “You can put in a sensor, you can put in an app [linked to a tire], but this is not a dialogue between the tire and the car. That is something that is a standalone system. With the McLaren Artura, we believe that we’ll be the first to fully integrate a sensor in the tire with the car’s electronics.”

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#cars, #cyber-tire, #mclaren-artura, #pirelli, #tire-pressure-monitoring-system, #tires

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How I learned to love the Indianapolis 500, America’s greatest race

Scott Dixon has won six IndyCar championships and one Indy 500. On Sunday, he will start the 105th Indy 500 from pole position.

Enlarge / Scott Dixon has won six IndyCar championships and one Indy 500. On Sunday, he will start the 105th Indy 500 from pole position. (credit: Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As an immigrant, it took me a while to properly appreciate the Indianapolis 500. Taking place this coming Sunday, the race is one of the oldest in the world, and it’s the largest single-day sporting event of the year, to boot. To the uninitiated, 200 laps on a track with only four corners doesn’t seem that complicated. But consider the fact that the 33 drivers still lap at an average speed of more than 220 mph (354 km/h), often inches from each other—and from the wall that lines the 2.5-mile (4 km) oval—and everything comes into perspective.

The race usually takes place on the same day as F1’s Monaco Grand Prix (and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600), but it’s now the highlight of the day for me, usually offering up about three hours of close but unpredictable racing. The demands on the driver are high—unlike in F1, an IndyCar has no power steering, for one thing.

And the addition of the aeroscreen has resulted in a considerable increase in cockpit temperatures now that drivers are no longer exposed to airflow. On top of that, teams need to manage their tire and fuel strategies and perfectly execute each pit stop if they want a shot at victory. It’s a daunting challenge that has bested even legendary drivers like F1 double champion Fernando Alonso.

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#cars, #indianapolis-500, #indy-500, #indycar, #mobile-app, #ntt, #racing

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We got our first ride in the electric Lucid Air sedan

Back in 2017, I got my first face-to-face encounter with a Lucid Air, when the startup electric vehicle-maker brought one of its early prototypes to Washington, DC. Its EV combined distinctive styling with some innovative packaging, with the technical team being led by a CTO who can count being the Tesla Model S’ chief engineer among his CV highlights.

Lucid’s timeline might have slipped a little from the original plan—investors are much less reticent about putting their money into EV startups than they were in 2017, and then the pandemic happened—but it’s on track to begin deliveries of the Air later this year. And on Sunday, I was fortunate enough to go for a ride in one of the company’s current prototypes to see how things have changed.

From the outside, the Air looks like little else on the market. It’s a smooth shape, with a relatively long hood and a short trunk, accented by the polished aluminum pillars that frame the glasshouse. Superficially it looks much the same as when I first saw it, but many of the details have changed along the way to what may well be a class-leading drag coefficient of just 0.21.

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#amelia-island-concours-delegance, #battery-electric-vehicle, #bev, #cars, #ev, #lucid, #lucid-air

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The 2021 BMW M3: When you’re driving it, you don’t have to see its nose

I have a confession to make. Over the past few months of gazing at images in wide-eyed awe and after spending a week with the new sixth-generation M3 in the flesh, I’ve grown accustomed to the look. The front end no longer stuns and confuses me; it’s simply the new M3. While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the design, I’d like to think that it offers a semblance of hope: with time, you can see past the face.

More importantly, this new M car is notable for more than just its schnoz—there’s a reason the M3 has long been the benchmark by which all other luxury sports sedans are measured. Decades ago, the M3 helped establish the template for the everyday performance machine with a masterful blend of capability, comfort, and style. The mission remains much the same today, but the stakes are higher than ever.

Starting at $70,895 and coming in at $90,295 as tested, this “base” M3 packs formidable performance cred, dishing out 473 hp (353 kW) and 406 lb-ft (550 Nm) of torque by way of the twin-turbocharged 3.0L S58 inline six-cylinder engine under the hood, and that boosted mill sends the power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Spring for the Competition package and output jumps to 503 hp (375 kW) and 479 lb-ft (650 Nm), but it comes with the caveat that it can only be had with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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#bmw, #bmw-m3, #car-review, #cars

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Hyundai reveals US specs for Ioniq 5 electric crossover

It’s a good time for new battery electric vehicles. Ford’s F-150 Lightning electric pickup has been hogging the headlines lately—no surprise, given America’s enduring love affair with the half-ton truck. But I’m more excited about Hyundai’s next BEV, the Ioniq 5, which should start showing up on roads this fall. We got our first (remote) look at the Ioniq 5 back in February, but this week Hyundai opened up about specifications and features for US-bound Ioniq 5s.

At first, Hyundai will not sell the Ioniq 5 nationwide. The company will prioritize states with zero-emissions regulations—California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont—but also Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. If you don’t live in one of those 16 states and you want an Ioniq 5, you’ll have to wait until sometime in 2022 to buy one.

We still don’t have pricing information—expect that information closer to release. More details are also coming for a subscription option that sounds a lot like Volvo’s Care by Volvo program, which includes insurance and maintenance in its monthly fee.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bev, #cars, #crossover, #e-gmp, #electric-car, #hyundai, #hyundai-ioniq-5

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Ford reveals pricing for the F-150 Lightning Pro work truck

Last week, Ford revealed the F-150 Lightning, its long-awaited electric pickup truck. At the start of the new work week, the automaker offered up some information about the entry-level versions of the F-150 Lighting, which it is targeting at the commercial market. This version will be called the F-150 Lightning Pro.

The standard-range F-150 Lightning Pro can travel approximately 230 miles on a single charge, and as we found out last week, will cost $39,974 before incentives or tax credits.

What we didn’t know was how much of a premium Ford would charge for the extended range version. This model is capable of about 300 miles on a single charge, and will be supplied with an 240 V, 80 A (called the Charge Station Pro) that can fill the battery to 100 percent in eight hours. As it turns out, the electric pickup with the bigger battery will go on sale at $49,974 before incentives and tax credits.

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#cars, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-truck, #f-150, #ford, #ford-f-150, #ford-f-150-lightning, #ford-f-150-lightning-pro, #pickup-truck

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When is a Porsche 911 not a Porsche 911? When it’s a Ruf

The Porsche 911 is one of the most instantly recognizable cars in the world. For decades and across multiple generations, Porsche has kept the same basic shape and the same basic format—a flat-six engine mounted behind the rear axle. But some of the most famous 911s don’t actually wear the Porsche crest. Instead, they’re officially recognized as the products of a company called Ruf, based in Pfaffenhausen, Germany. And there’s a new exhibition celebrating them at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.

If you’re a car nerd, chances are you already know about Ruf. That might be because of Faszination on the Nürburgring. It’s a 20-minute promo video made by Ruf in 1987 and features a bright yellow Ruf CTR, also known as the Yellowbird. Based on the naturally aspirated 911 Carrera 3.2, Ruf seam-welded the chassis, replaced the body panels with lightweight aluminum (or fiberglass for the bumpers), and upgraded the suspension and brakes. Ruf also upgraded the engine, boring it out to 3.4 L and adding a pair of big turbochargers, resulting in at least 463hp (345 kW) and 408 lb-ft (553Nm)—well in excess of anything Porsche sold at the time.

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#cars, #gran-turismo, #gran-turismo-2, #kazunori-yamauchi, #nordschleife, #nurburgring, #porsche, #ruf, #ruf-ctr, #the-petersen-museum, #yellowbird

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All those electric vehicles pose a problem for building roads

Red Jaguar I-Pace

Enlarge / “I think this might be the best-looking EV yet,” Cars Technica’s Jonathan Gitlin in 2018 about the Jaguar I-Pace. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee—the guy who, while running for president two years ago, proposed a nationwide ban on sales of gas-powered cars by 2030—vetoed a statewide ban on gas-powered car sales by 2030.

The reason for the puzzling move, Inslee said in a statement, was a provision tucked into the legislation. The language said the 2030 target would take effect only if lawmakers created a program to charge drivers based on how far they drive each year.

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#bevs, #cars, #electric-cars, #gas-taxes, #highways, #maintenance

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The Ferrari Portofino M, reviewed

You might associate the Florida Keys with Crimson Jihad, but this red is actually called Rosso Portofino.

Enlarge / You might associate the Florida Keys with Crimson Jihad, but this red is actually called Rosso Portofino. (credit: Elle Cayabyab Gitlin)

A couple of years ago, Ars got to spend a rather enjoyable morning with a Ferrari Portofino on a very deserted, very twisty Californian road. It was revelatory, demonstrating that this entry level Ferrari—sometimes unfairly maligned because it has back seats and a retractable hardtop—was capable of delivering the goods in terms of driver engagement. That’s good; you’d hope that even Ferrari’s most affordable road car would be fun to drive.

Now there’s an uprated version, called the Portofino M (for Modificata). This gets a small bump in power and a brand-new eight-speed dual clutch transmission. There’s now a more permissive race mode, too, and that retunes the onboard electronic systems that both flatter and protect the driver. But the Portofino is also supposed to be one of Ferrari’s most versatile vehicles, thanks to those (admittedly rudimentary) back seats and folding hard top. And so the Portofino M—base price $226,000—gains some extra convenience features, including a suite of advanced driver assistance systems and the option to have ventilated seats.

I concluded my 2019 Portofino review praising its handling on that sinuous ribbon of asphalt, but I left my time with the car none the wiser with regards to its ability at more mundane tasks. After all, this is the closest thing Ferrari builds to a daily driver. And evidently, this practicality was on Ferrari’s mind again when it organized the first US drive of the Portofino M. There were no winding mountain roads this time, nor a race track upon which to really push the Modificata to the limite.

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#cars, #climate-change, #features, #ferrari, #ferrari-portofino-m, #florida-keys, #grand-tourer, #hemingway, #polydactyl-cat

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We drove the Audi RS e-tron GT for an hour; here’s what we learned

In February, Audi took the wraps off its next electric vehicle. It’s called the e-tron GT, and unlike the rest of Audi’s EV offerings, this one isn’t an SUV or crossover. It’s a four-door sports car that shares a platform with the very impressive Porsche Taycan. We’re expecting a proper drive later this summer once the e-tron GT is on sale, but on Tuesday Audi let Ars spend an hour behind the wheel of a preproduction version on the roads of northern Virginia.

The car is available in two flavors; the $99,900 e-tron GT or the $139,900 RS e-tron GT, and it’s the latter that we got to drive. It’s a twin-motor design, combining a 235 hp (175 kW) motor at the front axle and a 450 hp (335 kW) motor at the rear, with a combined output of 590 hp (440 kW) and 612 lb-ft (830Nm). The motors are fed by a 93.4 kWh battery pack (~85 kWh usable capacity). The battery’s 800 V electrical architecture allows it to fast charge at up to 270 kW—which means going from 5 to 80 percent in 22.5 minutes—and it can regenerate up to 265 kW of energy under braking.

The Audi might be a little cheaper and a little less powerful than the Taycan, but, if anything, it’s a better-looking car, even in relatively anonymous metallic gray paint. Its cabin is more conventional than the Porsche, with just two screens—one for the main instrument display and one for the infotainment system—and plenty of physical buttons for things like the climate controls. (The audio controls on the center console are like the touch-sensitive dial on the front of an iPod, which is neat.)

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#800-v, #audi, #audi-r8, #audi-rs-e-tron-gt, #audi-rs7, #cars, #electric-sports-car, #porsche-taycan

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Virtuo raises $96M for its streamlined take on car rentals

Car ownership has become pricey and untenable in many towns and cities in Europe: between congestion charges to reduce emissions, parking fees, and traffic, many consumers opt instead to use public transportation, two wheels, cabs or their own legs to get around. To add to that mix for longer journeys, today a startup that’s building a new take on car rental is announcing some funding to scale out its service.

Virtuo, a Paris-based startup that has built a very streamlined, all-digital approach for those who want to rent a car for a few days, or up to a few months, has picked up $96 million, money that it will be using to invest in its tech; to expand to more markets beyond France (12 cities including Paris), UK (London, Manchester and Edinburgh) and Spain (Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia); to add in a tier for business users; and to add more vehicles into the mix. The company currently has 150,000 active users, and grew 100% (2x) this last year, said co-founder Karim Kaddoura.

“The rise of the ‘staycation’ boosted our business,” he said. “And we saw a surge in the average duration of a rental.”

All-digital and streamlined in the case of Virtuo means exactly that: currently there are only two models to choose from outside of France — either a Mercedes Benz A-Class or a Mercedes GLA SUV — but there is no paperwork, with everything handled through an app, and you have the option of getting a car delivered to and picked up from you, meaning no lines in airports or hotel garages, and you get a virtual key to operate it.

The funding is coming in the form of a $60 million Series C and $36 million in asset financing. AXA Venture Partners, the strategic investment arm of the insurance giant, led the equity round, with new investors Bpifrance, Alpha Intelligence Capital and H14; and previous backers Balderton Capital, Iris Capital and Raise Ventures, also participating. Natixis, members of Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne Group handled the asset financing.

While companies like Zipcar, Getaround or Turo (which has, interestingly acquired Virtuo as a Google search, and even writes “Virtuo” on its search resultshave made it easy to rent cars for a day or as little as a few hours in cities, Virtuo provides a modern take on the more traditional use case for renting cars: when you need a vehicle for longer journeys that can take up to several days, and specifically in the case of Virtuo between one and 90 days.

As Kaddoura — who co-founded Virtuo with Thibault Chassagne — notes, traditional car rental companies serving that market are typically still pretty rigid with how they do things.

Even if you initiate a process online, there is usually still paperwork that needs to be filled out in person; and you need to go to a rental hub — in an airport or a hotel, but not necessarily in your neighborhood — to pick up the car. The process for checking them out and in can also be tedious and the costs for all of this quite high, with many moments where the rental company might upsell you to make a basic price suddenly quite premium.

“The car rental industry itself is huge but consumers in it are completely underserved,” Kaddoura said.

And on the other side of the equation, there is a growing case for not owning a car if you live in a city or large town.

“Our aha-moment was when we looked into the numbers,” he said. “In Paris, there are 700,000 cars parked in the streets, with twice that in London. The average European spends €7,500 per car per year when you calculate parking, insurance, damage, taxes, and the price of the car averaged out. That’s €5 billion spent by Parisians, yet those cars are idle 95% of the time. Forget the financial part and look at the impact cars have on our lives and livelihoods, occupying 50% of our urban space.” It’s all the more ironic, Kaddoura noted, given that his father is a car dealer who completely expected his son to go into business with him one day.

It’s partly because of this environmental angle that Virtuo is also going to be expanding its fleet to include more electric vehicles: it already inludes Hyundai’s Kona Electric vehicles in its fleets in France, and the plan is to expand to have 50% of its fleet electrified by 2025, with 100% of it covered by electric vehicles by 2030. It also has been offsetting 100% of its carbon footprint since January of this year.

The funding round being announced today comes after what has been a challenging period for any company with a business model predicated on people leaving their homes to do things, not least to do things in spaces others have recently occupied. That is to say, Covid-19 has encourage people to stay home and socially distance, so a car rental — which encourages travel and specifically travel in a vehicle someone else has been in — may be a challenging sell.

Although revenues grew in 2020, it’s perhaps partly because of the bigger market conditions that Virtuo somewhat slowed down its roll. When we covered its last round of funding, in 2019, the company said the money would be used to expand to Spain and Germany, and more markets in the UK, that year, and it was also live in Belgium. Now, Kaddoura confirms that now Germany will only be coming online in 2022. Milan will be as soon as later this month, he said, with the bigger plan being to be live in 10 countries by 2025. (And Belgium is no longer online, it seems.)

Added to its own scaling ambitions, however, the opportunity that Virtuo is targeting is not one that others have ignored. In addition to others like Getaround (which recently got a big round), Drover out of the UK, Zipcar and Turo providing more streamlined rental and car-sharing experiences, recently Uber also expanded a car rental offering in partnership with a third party called CarTrawler. This is not a fully integrated service like Virtuo’s, nor a peer-to-peer offering like Getaround, but something that appears to aggregate and search across the same traditional car rental companies that Virtuo is competing against. That makes it, potentially, a direct competitor.

“We are very proud and excited to be part of the Virtuo adventure alongside the Virtuo team, led by Karim and Thibault,” said Benoit Fosseprez, general partner at AXA Venture Partners, in a statement. “Virtuo has quickly become a tech leader disrupting the car rental space, with a clear long-term vision and strong ambitions for growth into new markets. We have been impressed by the Virtuo team and look forward to working closely together on the next stages of their development. With this investment in Virtuo, the first for our Growth II fund, we are confirming our ambition in the tech-led high growth companies segment.”

“We are delighted to support Virtuo in its development,” said Caroline Lebel of Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund, in a separate statement. “The company offers a true alternative to owning private cars for city dwellers who wish to use more sustainable shared mobility solutions. Born in the digital era, Virtuo’s 100% digital experience is backed by powerful technology and artificial intelligence to optimize its operations. We are convinced that the mobility of tomorrow must be built with strong technology at its core, addressing new behaviors and with the freedom of choice of a multimodal offer.”

#car-rentals, #cars, #europe, #funding, #tc, #transportation, #virtuo

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This is Ford’s first electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning

Ford's range of all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup trucks will start at just $39,974 before tax credits.

Enlarge / Ford’s range of all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup trucks will start at just $39,974 before tax credits. (credit: Ford)

On Wednesday night, the Ford Motor Company unveiled its latest pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning. The truck is the hotly anticipated battery-electric version of Ford’s bestselling vehicle, and when it goes on sale in mid-2022, it will join the Mustang Mach-E and the electric Transit van as part of Ford’s battery EV lineup.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden visited Ford’s Rouge factory in Michigan and gave the world an impromptu demo of how quickly the F-150 Lightning can accelerate.

The answer is around four seconds to 60 mph, at least when the truck is fitted with an extended-range battery. But a more important headline figure is the truck’s price. Remarkably, Ford is not targeting the upper end of its consumer base with the F-150 Lightning. Although you’ll be able to option a Lightning out the wazoo like you can with any other F-150, Ford will sell basic models with the (smaller) standard battery pack, aimed at commercial use, for $39,974 before tax credits.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bev, #cars, #electric-f-150, #electric-pickup-truck, #ev, #ford-f-150, #ford-f-150-lightning, #pickup-truck

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This is Kia’s next electric car: The 300-mile EV6

The Kia EV6 is one of the more intriguing electric vehicles to have been announced over the past few months. Like sibling brand Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, the EV6 will use a new 800 V electric car platform called E-GMP, which boasts extremely rapid fast charging and a raft of other interesting design details. On Tuesday night, Kia took over Times Square in Manhattan to formally unveil the EV6 in the US, ahead of deliveries scheduled for early 2022.

Hyundai went for a rather retro look for the Ioniq 5. Instead of looking backward, Kia chose to clad the EV6 in a crossover body that’s more than a little reminiscent of the Lamborghini Urus. That comparison might get a little more pointed in late 2022 when the EV6 GT arrives—that one will beat the Lamborghini SUV in a drag race, at least to 60 mph.

Four powertrain configurations

Kia has announced four different powertrain combinations for the EV6. The entry-level EV6 will come with a 58 kWh battery and a single 167 hp (125 kW) electric motor driving the rear wheels. A second rear-wheel-drive EV6 will be available with a larger 77.4 kWh battery pack and 218 hp (162 kW) from its motor.

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#cars, #e-gmp, #electric-vehicle, #kia, #kia-ev6

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McLaren goes with a clean-sheet chassis and engine for Artura supercar

Earlier this year, McLaren unveiled its Artura supercar. When it goes on sale later in 2021, it will become the brand’s new entry-level car, replacing the “Sport Series” cars like the 570S and 600LT. And it really is all-new. All previous McLarens (except the F1) have used different variants of the same V8 engine and versions of the same carbon-fiber monocoque tubs. But the Artura is powered by a V6 plug-in hybrid powertrain, and the carbon monocoque—which has to package the high-voltage battery pack—is similarly fresh. McLaren recently sat down with Ars over Zoom to give us a deep dive into the Artura’s tech; read on to find out what we learned.

MCLA

Until now, McLaren had outsourced production of its carbon-fiber “monocell” chassis to an Austrian company called Carbo Tech. But in 2020 McLaren opened its own composite manufacturing center in Sheffield, England, and the Artura’s chassis—dubbed the McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture—will be made in-house.

McLaren says more than 500 pieces of carbon fiber are laser cut and assembled in 72 pre-forms; these make up 11 subassemblies that come together to make the finished tub. It’s not an entirely carbon car, however. Like the current Sport Series McLarens, the Artura will use aluminum body panels. But it still manages to achieve a highly respectable curb weight of 3,303 lbs (1,498 kg).

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#carbon-fiber, #cars, #mclaren, #mclaren-artura, #plug-in-hybrid, #supercar, #v6

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A brief look at electric vehicles from the dawn of the automobile age

If it seems that electric cars are the future of the automobile, the same was true more than a century ago. With automakers planning to meet government laws ending new internal combustion engine production by 2035, this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance—which takes place May 20-23 in Florida—is a reminder that electric cars are far from a new idea.

“The electric carriage has made a good record for speed, and the great ease of control and the absence of noise and odor will commend it to those who are anxious to purchase horseless carriages,” wrote Scientific American in 1895. For a while, it was true.

These are the cutting-edge cars that held so much promise, a promise only now reaching fruition.

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#amelia-island-concours-delegance, #cars, #classic-cars, #electric-cars, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #retro, #vintage-cars

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Musk: Bitcoin is bad for climate (and you can’t buy Teslas with it anymore)

A casually dressed man appears flip during a presentation.

Enlarge / Elon Musk in 2020. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Wednesday that Tesla would stop taking bitcoin as payment for the company’s electric vehicles. The change comes less than two months after the automaker began accepting the cryptocurrency. Why the about-face? Musk now says he has concerns over bitcoin’s carbon footprint.

Tesla’s purchase policy wasn’t the company’s only bitcoin-related announcement that has made waves. In February, the electric automaker disclosed that it had taken a $1.5 billion stake in the currency. Cryptocurrency promoters rejoiced at the string of announcements—Tesla’s moves had bolstered the currency’s legitimacy, and bitcoin’s price against the dollar surged over 15 percent in the wake of the disclosure.

But environmentalists despaired—the carbon footprint of purchasing a Tesla with bitcoin was so large that it swamped any emissions savings from driving it. Today, Musk appears to share that assessment. “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

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#bitcoin, #carbon-footprint, #cars, #climate, #cryptocurrency, #policy, #tesla

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Real robotaxi service gets a step closer in San Francisco

One of Waymo's sensor-studded Jaguar I-Paces observes a pedestrian crossing the road in front of it.

Enlarge / One of Waymo’s sensor-studded Jaguar I-Paces observes a pedestrian crossing the road in front of it. (credit: Waymo)

The day when robotaxis roam the streets of San Francisco looking for fare-paying customers is getting closer. This week, Reuters reported that both Waymo and Cruise have applied to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles for permits to deploy driverless vehicles. The permit on its own isn’t sufficient to begin operating a commercial robotaxi service, but it is an important milestone on the way to achieving that.

For several months now, Waymo has operated a fully driverless commercial taxi service in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. But as Ars alum Tim Lee wrote recently, “Suburban Phoenix is a terrible place to run a taxi service.”

A sun-blessed suburb in the Southwest, designed with the car in mind as the primary mode of transport, is as close to easy mode for an autonomous vehicle as it’s possible to get, outside the confines of private test tracks or a gigantic retirement village. That in turn means that the Phoenix suburbs have limited value when it comes to teaching an autonomous vehicle how to cope with the big bad world. And since having a car is virtually a prerequisite for living in a suburb like Chandler, the people who live there don’t need to use taxis often.

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#cars, #cruise, #driverless-vehicles, #robotaxis, #waymo

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Volvo and Daimler bet on hydrogen truck boom this decade

Volvo and Daimler bet on hydrogen truck boom this decade

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Hydrogen-powered heavy trucks capable of driving long distances are likely to reach a tipping point toward the end of the decade, according to the heads of the world’s two biggest truck makers.

Martin Daum, chair of industry leader Daimler Truck, told the Financial Times that, while diesel trucks would dominate sales for the next three to four years, hydrogen would take off as fuel between 2027 and 2030 before going “steeply up.”

Martin Lundstedt, chief executive of Volvo Group, which has just bought into a hydrogen joint venture with Daimler, said that, after fuel-cell production started in 2025, there would be a “much steeper ramp-up” toward the end of the decade.

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#cars, #daimler, #fuel-cells, #hydrogen, #volvo

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Aston Martin’s new boss tells us about the future of the company

The life of a car company is not an easy one; as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has often noted, “[a]s of 2016, the number of American car companies that haven’t gone bankrupt is a grand total of two.” Aston Martin isn’t American, but it has gone bankrupt in the past—more than once, in fact. Founded in 1913, it has at times been owned by industrialists as well as the Ford Motor Company, but today it finds itself publicly listed on the London stock exchange, trading at a much cheaper price than its initial offering in 2018.

At the same time, it has a product portfolio that now includes that must-have—an SUV—as well as an increased presence in Formula 1. Perhaps more importantly, it also signed a technology transfer agreement with Mercedes-AMG that gives the small marque access to the latest and greatest in powertrain technology. And the British company has a new CEO: German businessman Tobias Moers. Moers joined the company in 2020 after more than two decades at Daimler AG, most recently as head of… Mercedes-AMG.

Recently, Ars met up with Moers (via Zoom) to talk about electrification and the future of James Bond’s brand of choice.

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#aston-martin, #aston-martin-db11, #aston-martin-dbx, #aston-martin-valhalla, #aston-martin-valkyrie, #aston-martin-vantage, #cars, #mercedes-amg, #tobias-moer

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Subaru’s first electric vehicle is called the Solterra and it’s due out in 2022

For Subaru diehards holding out for an electric vehicle, the wait is almost over. The Japanese automaker just announced new details about its first ever EV, which is set to hit the streets in 2022.

Subaru will call its first EV the Solterra, a fitting name for a brand synonymous with outdoor adventures and you know, the sun and the Earth. Also fittingly, Subaru’s first full-fledged EV will be an SUV thats ships with the manufacturer’s well-regarded all-wheel drive capabilities.

The Solterra is built on a new platform the company is developing in partnership with Toyota, which the latter company will use for its impossibly named BZ4X crossover (BZ stands for “beyond zero,” apparently).

Subaru has only released two teaser images so far, but given that the new SUV will share DNA with the Toyota BZ4X, Subaru’s offering will likely look like a toned-down, less aggressively styled version of Toyota’s forthcoming futuristic electric crossover.

Other than that, we don’t know a whole lot. If the Solterra winds up looking a lot like the BZ4X, you can expect a sort of squashed RAV4, maybe somewhere between a Crosstrek and a Forester in size.

Subaru’s first proper EV will join the plug-in hybrid Crosstrek, which the company began selling in 2014 — currently its only option for climate-conscious drivers. The Solterra will go on sale next year in the U.S., Canada, China, Europe, and Japan.

#cars, #crossover, #electric-vehicles, #evs, #greentech, #subaru, #tc, #toyota

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Fatal Tesla Model S crash unlikely to involve Autopilot, according to NTSB

A red sedan cruises down a tree-lined highway.

Enlarge (credit: Andrei Stanescu / Getty Images)

On Monday afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report for its investigation into a crash of a Tesla Model S that killed the driver and passenger in Texas earlier in April. The crash made headlines because no one was found in the driver’s seat, raising suspicions that Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system was involved in the deaths. This now seems unlikely—the NTSB says that video footage shows the occupants getting into the front seats of the car shortly before the crash. Additionally, the NTSB was unable to engage a component of Autopilot on the stretch of road where the crash happened.

The crash occurred on April 17 in Spring, located in Harris County, Texas. According to the NTSB report, footage from the owner’s home security system shows that the driver and a passenger entered the car at the owner’s house. They then traveled approximately 550 feet (167 m) “before departing the road on a curve, driving over the curb, and hitting a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and a tree.” At this point, the Tesla’s lithium-ion traction battery was damaged and caught fire.

The fire also destroyed the on-board storage of the Tesla’s infotainment system, but the NTSB says it recovered a fire-damaged restraint control module that can “record data associated with vehicle speed, belt status, acceleration, and airbag deployment.” This module has been taken to the NTSB’s recorder laboratory for further testing.

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#autopilot, #bevs, #cars, #ntsb, #tesla, #tesla-model-s

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Ford picks a name for its electric pickup truck: The F-150 Lightning

If you thought Ford would find it hard to resist reviving the Lightning brand for its electric F-150 pickup, you'd be right.

Enlarge / If you thought Ford would find it hard to resist reviving the Lightning brand for its electric F-150 pickup, you’d be right. (credit: Ford Motor Company)

As many have predicted, Ford will revive the “Lightning” nameplate for the battery-electric version of its F-150 pickup truck. The formal reveal of the electric F-150 is scheduled to take place in Michigan on May 19, at which point we hope to get more information about this hotly anticipated electric vehicle. For now, Ford is keeping details like the vehicle’s range and battery capacity to itself.

Like the Rivian that we just wrote about or the hybrid F-150s that are already on sale, it sounds like the F-150 Lightning will come with on-board AC power outlets. “America’s favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric. F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Farley in a statement sent to Ars.

The original F-150 Lightning was a product of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team. It debuted in 1993 as a high-performance variant of the F-150 pickup, which was offered until 1995. Then in 1999, a second F-150 Lightning arrived, this time based on the 10th-generation F-150.

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#cars, #electric-pickup, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-truck, #f-150, #ford-f-150, #ford-f-150-lightning, #ford-motor-company, #pickup, #truck

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Here’s our first look at 2023’s electric Porsche Macan SUV

This morning, in an email extolling the flexibility of in silico development, Porsche sent Ars the first official images of its next Macan crossover. And this Macan, which is still a couple of years from being ready, is entirely electric. Unfortunately, the photos don’t give too much away about this electric vehicle replacement to one of Porsche’s biggest sellers; the prototypes are camouflaged, and that Safari-spec LED roof bar is presumably just there to help Porsche’s engineers test around the clock. The four-element LED headlights are probably the real deal, though.

Porsche first revealed that the Macan would go all-electric in early 2019. The car will use a new electric vehicle architecture called PPE (Premium Platform Electric), which Porsche is developing together with corporate sibling Audi. Audi recently briefed us on one of its first PPE-derived EVs, the 2023 Audi A6 e-tron, which uses an 800 V, 100 kWh battery pack and a motor for each axle, with a combined output of 350 kW (469 hp) and 800 Nm (590 lb-ft). Although Porsche isn’t ready to share its own specs yet, the A6 e-tron offers a ballpark within which we can guesstimate.

In its email, Porsche says that it has built 20 digital prototypes, with different departments conducting their own simulations. “We regularly collate the data from the various departments and use it to build up a complete, virtual vehicle that is as detailed as possible,” said Porsche’s Dr. Andreas Huber, who manages the digital prototypes. The aerodynamicists were among the first to start modeling the EV Macan beginning in 2017.

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#battery-ev, #bev, #cars, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #porsche, #porsche-macan, #ppe, #premium-platform-electric, #suv

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Android Automotive OS review: Under the hood with Google’s car OS

Please don't actually drive while wearing a giant Android mask.

Enlarge / Please don’t actually drive while wearing a giant Android mask. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Polestar)

Can Google do to car infotainment what it did to smartphones?

Every car manufacturer nowadays needs to include an infotainment system with its car, and that means developing an operating system, making a UI that isn’t terrible, building an SDK and app ecosystem, and doing a million other things car manufacturers have not typically needed to do. In the face of all that, Google is pulling out the Android smartphone playbook and tempting car manufacturers with a car-specific version of Android, called the “Android Automotive OS.”

“Let us build your operating system!” Google essentially tells the car manufacturers. “We’ve got great hardware and touch support, third-party apps, and a well-known developer SDK! We’ll provide Google Maps, Google Assistant voice commands, and the Play Store! We even update the codebase with monthly security updates! Best of all, for you, it’s free! Just sign this contract ensuring you’ll include all of our apps and services.”

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#cars, #features, #tech

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Rivian’s electric truck features include air compressor and AC outlets

Electric vehicle startup Rivian is moving closer to production of its innovative-looking trucks and SUVs. The first launch edition R1T pickup trucks are expected in June, with series production models arriving at the start of 2022. And even though I’m not really a truck person, I remain as fascinated now by this new entrant into the most quintessentially American part of the vehicle market as I was after first seeing one in 2019.

Ahead of those initial deliveries, the company reached out to share some of info about the R1T, which looks like it will offer Swiss Army knife-levels of versatility to its owners. It’s about the size you’d expect of a full-size pickup truck: 217.1 inches (5.51 m) long, 81.8 inches (2.08 m) wide, and between 72.1-78.3 inches (1.83-1.99 m) tall depending on whether it’s in kneel mode (ground clearance: 8.7 inches/0.22 m) or off-road mode (ground clearance: 14.9 inches/0.38 m).

The big lockable cargo area under the hood (also known as a frunk) can stash 11 cubic feet (311 L) of stuff. And at the rear, you’ll find a tow hook capable of pulling up to 11,000 lbs (4,989 kg). It lives beneath an aerodynamic cover when not in use.

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#cars, #electric-truck, #rivian, #rivian-r1t

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Tesla engineer: Musk’s FSD timeline “does not match engineering reality”

A casually dressed man appears flip during a presentation.

Enlarge / Elon Musk in 2020. (credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty)

In January’s Tesla earnings call, an analyst asked Elon Musk about his belief that Tesla would achieve Level 5 autonomy—jargon for a car that can drive itself in all situations—by the end of the year.

“I’m confident based on my understanding of the technical roadmap and the progress that we’re making between each beta iteration,” Musk said.

But six weeks later, Tesla’s director of Autopilot software, CJ Moore, contradicted Musk in a March meeting with California regulators. That’s according to a memo obtained by transparency site Plainsite via a freedom of information request.

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#cars

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Why hasn’t Waymo expanded its driverless service? Here’s my theory

A Waymo-branded minivan prowls suburban streets.

Enlarge (credit: Sundry Photography / Getty Images)

Last October, Waymo did something remarkable: the company launched a fully driverless commercial taxi service called Waymo One. Customers in a 50-square-mile corner of suburban Phoenix can now use their smartphones to hail a Chrysler Pacifica minivan with no one in the driver’s seat.

And then… nothing. Seven months later, Waymo has neither expanded the footprint of the Phoenix service nor has it announced a timeline for launching in a second city.

It’s as if Steve Jobs had unveiled the iPhone, shipped a few thousand phones to an Apple Store in Phoenix, and then didn’t ship any more for months—and wouldn’t explain why.

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#cars, #cruise, #kyle-vogt, #self-driving, #waymo

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NASCAR ditches decades of tradition for its Next Gen race car

Big changes are coming to NASCAR. On Wednesday afternoon, the sport formally unveiled its new race car, called the Next Gen. It makes its racing debut in 2022, and it’s a radical upgrade for a series that has earned a reputation—unfairly, as it happens—as a low-tech zone.

As I found out in 2018, stock car racing is no place for luddites. But a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that, based on the specs of the sport’s current Gen6 car. Transmissions with only four speeds, wheels with five lug nuts, and a solid rear axle all seem highly anachronistic to fans of most other types of motorsport. But from next year, all that stuff is gone.

Now, that actually looks like a modern race car

At its core, the Next Gen car sticks with a steel tubeframe chassis with integrated roll cage. But it’s clothed in composite body panels, not aluminum, and the bodies are now symmetrical. At the front, the most noticeable difference is that the cars from Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota really do look like Chevys, Fords, and Toyotas.

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#cars, #chevrolet, #ford-performance, #nascar, #nascar-next-gen-car, #racing, #stock-cars, #toyota

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Appeals court allows parents to sue Snap over 100mph car crash

Stock photo of extreme close-up of redline speedometer.

Enlarge (credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images)

A California federal appeals court has denied legal immunity to Snap for the 2017 death of two teens and a 20-year-old when their car crashed into a tree at 113 miles per hour (180 km/h). Parents of two of the boys sued Snap, arguing that Snapchat’s “Speed Filter” encouraged the boys to accelerate their car to more than 100 miles per hour.

The Snapchat Speed Filter in action.

The Snapchat Speed Filter in action. (credit: 9th Circuit opinion)

Last year, Snap convinced a federal trial judge that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shielded Snap from liability in the case. The once-obscure 1996 law has become a frequent source of controversy as technology giants have used it to disclaim responsibility for harmful content on their platforms.

Snap, maker of the popular Snapchat messaging app, argued that the law gave it immunity in the boys’ death. Snapchat pioneered the concept of image filters that has been widely copied by other apps. In 2017, Snapchat’s offerings included a Speed Filter that displayed a user’s current speed—either on its own or superimposed on the user’s photo. Users could use this filter to show their friends how fast they were moving.

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#cars, #policy, #section-230, #snap

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Chip shortage continues, US asks Taiwan to prioritize automakers

Chip shortage continues, US asks Taiwan to prioritize automakers

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

The worldwide semiconductor shortage continues to affect the automotive industry. One by one, automakers have warned that the silicon chip shortage will negatively impact production output and revenues in the coming months.

Renault identified the chip shortage as a major problem when reporting its Q1 results in April. A week later, Ford said it expects to lose half of its Q2 production, up from 17 percent in Q1. And on Wednesday, Stellantis Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer added to the chorus, warning that “it would be imprudent to assume that the issue is just going to go away.”

The shortage has its roots in the pandemic as carmakers canceled pending semiconductor orders in the face of heavily reduced demand for new vehicles. Since then, a drought in Taiwan and a fire at a Japanese chipmaker have compounded the problem, as has strong demand for consumer electronics.

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#cars, #chip-shortage, #defense-production-act, #ford, #renault, #stellantis, #tsmc

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