Volkswagen’s new US-made ID.4 starts at $37,495 with small battery

A blue VW ID.4 driving over a bridge

Enlarge / An ID.4 crosses a bridge in Chattanooga. Local production of the electric crossover has enabled a cheaper version with a smaller battery. (credit: Volkswagen)

Last year, Ars visited Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the company was preparing to begin local production of its ID.4 electric crossover. That factory is now up to speed, and VW is making good on its promise to make a cheaper ID.4, made possible by a smaller battery pack.

It’s a tried-and-true approach by automakers, as the higher margins on better-equipped models help offset the high costs of putting a new model into production.

The new model is called the ID.4 Standard, and it keeps the same 201-hp (150-kW) electric motor driving the rear wheels as the ID.4 Pro or the ID.4 First Edition we tested in April 2021. But instead of that car’s 82 kWh pack, the ID.4 Standard makes do with a 62 kWh pack (gross capacity—unfortunately, VW hasn’t shared net capacity).

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#cars, #chattanooga, #electric-vehicle, #volkswagen, #volkswagen-id-4

Here’s one way we know that an EV’s battery will last the car’s lifetime

close-up of a mechanic's hands disassembling an electric car battery on top of a trailer inside a mechanic shop

Enlarge / An EV’s battery represents as much as 25 percent of the cost of the car, so it’s understandable that people are nervous about longevity. (credit: Aranga87/Getty Images)

It’s often said that the easiest way to get people to buy an electric vehicle is to let them test-drive one. But here in the US, EVs only accounted for 3 percent of the 15 million new vehicles sold in 2021. That means there are an awful lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to these newfangled machines.

The top concern is probably range anxiety, a fear that is usually dispelled as someone gets used to waking up to a full battery every morning. I won’t dwell on that today, but the next-most common point of confusion about EVs has to be the traction battery’s longevity, or potential lack thereof.

It’s an understandable concern; many of us are used to using consumer electronic devices powered by rechargable batteries that develop what’s known as “memory.” The effect is caused by repeatedly charging a cell before it has been fully depleted, resulting in the cell “forgetting” that it can deplete itself further. The lithium-ion cells used by EVs aren’t really affected by the memory effect, but they can degrade storage capacity if subjected to too many fast charges or if their thermal management isn’t taken seriously.

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#ansys, #cars, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-battery, #lithium-ion-battery, #ni, #porsche, #simulation

The 2023 Polestar 2 Single Motor proves “basic” doesn’t mean “boring”

A white polestar 2 parked in the shade of some evergreens. The sun has hit the camera lens and created a rainbow next to the car

Enlarge / You’re unlikely to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but you might encounter a Polestar 2. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Polestar is riding pretty high right now. Now listed on the NASDAQ exchange, the company is preparing to introduce three new electric vehicles over the next three years: a large SUV in 2023, a smaller crossover in 2024, and a flagship (read: expensive) four-door coupe in 2025. In March, the company introduced a new variant of the Polestar 2 fastback sedan, the $48,400 Polestar 2 Long Range Single motor.

And after a few days of driving one, I think it’s another data point in favor of the argument that less power sometimes means more fun when it comes to EVs. But I must confess I’m scratching my head about the “long range” part, given the useable capacity of the battery pack and the EV’s energy efficiency.

As the name suggests, the biggest mechanical change compared to the dual-motor version we drove in 2020 is the loss of the rear motor. Polestar has also made some changes to the way it sources and makes components like the aluminum alloy wheels and the battery case; the company says these changes reduce the carbon footprint of the car’s manufacturing by just under 3,000 lbs (1,350 kg).

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#car-review, #cars, #electric-vehicle, #polestar-2

Here’s Hyundai’s next electric vehicle, the Ioniq 6 sedan

A white Hyundai Ioniq 6 sedan in front of a 1930s airliner in a hangar.

Enlarge / Streamlined aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s were an inspiration for the Hyundai Ioniq 6. (credit: Hyundai)

The physical unveiling of the Hyundai Prophecy concept car was an early casualty of COVID, originally scheduled for the hastily canceled 2020 Geneva auto show. That didn’t stop it from blowing my socks off once Hyundai sent some images over the Internet, however. At the time, I didn’t think the Korean automaker would put the concept—which I described as the result of “a transporter accident involving a Mercedes CLS and a Tesla Model 3″—into production.

Obviously, I was being a fool because just as the Hyundai 45 concept morphed into the excellent Ioniq 5 crossover, the Prophecy has been translated into production as the Ioniq 6 sedan. Like the Ioniq 5, the Ioniq 6 uses Hyundai’s new E-GMP platform for 800 V vehicles, but importantly, it’s actually smaller (with a 2-inch/50-mm shorter wheelbase) and will be cheaper than the angular Ioniq 5. (Yes, this still confuses me, because 6 is more than 5, so one expects a bigger, more expensive car, plus the Ioniq 7 is going to be a large seven-seater electric SUV, due next year.)

The most notable change from the concept is the Ioniq 6’s extra height, an unavoidable consequence of having to package a 6-inch (150 mm) slab of lithium-ion batteries under the cabin’s floor. I asked Hyundai design chief Sangyup Lee if he had been tempted to stretch the production car’s wheelbase to maintain the concept’s proportions.

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#cars, #concept-car, #electric-vehicle, #hyundai, #hyundai-ioniq-6, #sangyup-lee

If Europe and Japan can have small, cheap EVs, why can’t America?

This EV is called the Nissan Sakura, and it goes on sale in Japan this year for about $14,000, proving that automakers can make small and affordable EVs.

Enlarge / This EV is called the Nissan Sakura, and it goes on sale in Japan this year for about $14,000, proving that automakers can make small and affordable EVs. (credit: Nissan)

You don’t have to dig far into the comments of just about any article we write about new cars to find complaints about the ever-growing size and cost of those new cars. Automakers are convinced that size sells in the US market, particularly when it comes to new electric vehicles. But there is a different way, as both Europe and Japan have shown.

For example, Autocar reported on Tuesday that Volkswagen will build a small EV called the ID.1 that will sell for around $18,000 (€17,000). Due to reach the market in 2025, this diminutive EV will use a cut-down version of VW’s MEB platform (as used in the US-market ID.4 crossover, among others) and is expected to have a WLTP range of about 250 miles (400 km) thanks to a 57 kWh battery pack.

In fact, Europeans will be somewhat spoiled for choice since the same factory in Spain will also produce versions of the ID.1 for the Cupra and Seat brands.

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#cars, #electric-vehicle, #kei-cars, #nissan, #small-cars, #volkswagen

How EV technology is bringing hot-rodding into the 21st century

How EV technology is bringing hot-rodding into the 21st century

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Aurich Lawson)

Earth Day is April 22, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

The term “restomod” first started gaining traction back in the 1990s. As muscle car enthusiasts searched for ways to improve the performance and reliability of their vintage machines, a cottage industry of folks adapting late-model powertrain and chassis components soon began to emerge. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a restored late-’60s Mustang or Camaro on the road that hasn’t been modified with some kind of modern tech—be it a computer-controlled fuel injection system, an updated brake and suspension system, or even a modern V8 engine.

To some, that might be sacrilege. To others, it’s simply about getting with the times.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #cars, #classic-cars, #electric-vehicle, #ev-west, #features, #ford, #restmod

What we learned by driving the prototype Nissan Ariya EV crossover

A Nissan Ariya parked in profile

Enlarge / The electric crossover market is starting to get crowded. This is one of the newest entrants: the Nissan Ariya. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Before Elon Musk and his Model 3, there was another auto executive with grand plans to electrify the car world. That man is Carlos Ghosn, and while he’s more famous these days for his departure from Nissan, he was a driving force behind the company’s Leaf electric vehicle. The Leaf never quite hit Ghosn’s demanding sales expectations—predictions of 1.5 million Leafs per year by 2016—but Nissan had still sold more than half a million by the start of 2020.

Expecting the Leaf to sell in big numbers here in the US was probably asking too much. Apart from small pockets of vocal Internet commentators, most Americans aren’t fans of hatchbacks unless they come with a high hip point and a commanding view of the road. That’s why Nissan’s next EV is landing in the hotly contested crossover segment. The vehicle is called the Ariya, and it goes on sale in the US this fall.

On the outside, it’s roughly the same size and shape as Nissan’s best-selling Rogue: 183 inches (4,648 mm) long, 74.8 inches (1,900 mm) wide, and 65.4 inches (1,661 mm) tall. But the Ariya’s axles are farther apart, and the inherent packaging properties of an electric powertrain mean that the Ariya’s interior volume is closer to Nissan’s larger, more upmarket Murano.

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#cars, #electric-vehicle, #first-drive, #nissan-ariya

Polestar’s stunning O2 concept is an electric roadster

Polestar O2 concept in profile

Enlarge / The Polestar O2 evolves the brand’s Precept four-door coupe into a stunning two-door roadster. (credit: Polestar)

For all the talk about the maturity of the electric car, it still has a ways to go before it can cover all the bases in the automotive ecosystem. While you can buy a few electric sedans, a handful of electric crossovers, and even an electric pickup truck, there are plenty of automotive niches yet to be blessed with batteries.

For example, there are no electric minivans, although Volkswagen’s ID.Buzz will check that box when it goes on sale next year. Electric convertibles are equally elusive. The EV that proved you could combine a bunch of laptop cells to power a car was the original Tesla Roadster, but it went out of production almost a decade ago.

It makes sense—the convertible market is a small one, and as startups and established automakers build out their battery-electric product portfolios, they’re starting with models that will sell in volume and make them some money. But that hasn’t stopped Polestar from imagining what its droptop might be with a stunning new concept car called the O2.

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#cars, #concept-car, #electric-vehicle, #polestar-o2, #roadster

Rivian surprises, outrages EV truck buyers with 20% price hike

A man is about to open the door of a Rivian truck in the wilderness

Enlarge (credit: Rivian)

Automaker Rivian announced yesterday that it is raising the prices of its R1T truck and R1S SUV and that the new prices would apply to nearly all preorders.

Both the R1T and R1S weren’t inexpensive vehicles to begin with—the truck started at $67,500 before any eligible tax credits, and the SUV started at $70,000. At those prices, the vehicles came equipped with a quad-motor drivetrain and a “large pack” battery that would provide about 315 miles of range.

Now, to get the same vehicle, buyers will have to fork over $79,500 for the R1T and $84,500 for the R1S, increases of 17 percent and 20 percent, respectively. The only customers locked in to the old pricing are those whose vehicles are already in production or will be soon. Given Rivian’s slow ramp-up, there aren’t likely to be many who qualify.

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#cars, #electric-vehicle, #evs, #inflation, #price-increase, #rivian

Ford, Volvo, and Redwood Materials start recycling EV batteries

Ford, Volvo, and Redwood Materials start recycling EV batteries

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

What happens to an electric vehicle’s big slab of batteries once it no longer holds a sufficient charge? On Thursday, Redwood Materials moved that conversation forward with an announcement that it has started its EV battery recycling program, with Ford and Volvo as partners.

US law requires an EV’s traction battery to maintain at least 70 percent of its original state of charge after eight years or 100,000 miles. Even older EVs—ones with proper thermal management for the battery pack—are showing resilience to battery degradation over time.

But eventually, a pack will no longer be suitable for propelling a car, at which point it can be given a second life as static storage. After the battery degrades enough, it’s time for recycling.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #battery-recycling, #cars, #electric-vehicle, #redwood-materials

Nissan is ending engine development, except for US-bound vehicles

A composite photo showing a V6 under the hood of a Nissan truck

Enlarge / America loves pickup trucks too much to give up burning gasoline, Nissan thinks. (credit: Nissan)

Nissan is the latest automaker to pull the plug on its internal combustion engine development. Well, mostly.

According to Nikkei Asia, the Japanese automaker has looked at the likely next set of European emissions rules and has decided it would be too expensive to design a new generation of engines that comply. Nissan is also not planning on any new internal combustion engines for Japan or China, although it will apparently keep refining existing engines and continue to work on hybrid powertrains.

However, this new policy isn’t a global one—it doesn’t apply to the US. That’s because here, the automaker expects continuing demand for internal combustion engines, particularly in pickup trucks.

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#cars, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-adoption, #internal-combustion-engine, #nissan

Volkswagen sets a date for its retro ID Buzz electric van launch

A VW ID Buzz prototype equipped with Argo AI's autonomous driving hardware and software, on the streets of Munich, Germany.

Enlarge / A VW ID Buzz prototype equipped with Argo AI’s autonomous driving hardware and software, on the streets of Munich, Germany. (credit: Argo AI)

This week, Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess set a date for the launch of what might be the most eagerly anticipated of VW’s new battery electric vehicles. The retro-styled ID Buzz concept car blew so many socks off when we first saw it in 2017, and we’ll get our first proper look at the production version on March 9, according to Diess’ Twitter feed.

Intentionally or not, Volkswagen’s ID Buzz concept might be the most successful aspect of the company’s post-Dieselgate charm offensive. VW has had to pivot hard into electrification, applying its proven strategy of building many different styles of vehicles from the same family of parts and designs.

Most of those vehicles have been pretty conventional, like the ID.3 hatchbacks that are starting to get thick on the ground in Europe or the designed-with-the-US-in-mind ID.4 crossover. Then there are the less conventional concepts—try as they might, the engineers couldn’t make a business case for the ID Buggy.

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#cars, #electric-vehicle, #id-buzz, #volkswagen, #volkwagen-id-buzz

Chrysler to go all-electric by 2028, starting with the Airflow in 2025

The Chrysler Airflow Concept front grille

Enlarge / Yes, it has a light bar, just like pretty much every other EV concept. Still, the lit Chrysler badge is tastefully integrated. (credit: Stellantis)

Not much appeared to be happening at Chrysler in the past few years, though that’s about to change. Its parent company, Stellantis, announced yesterday that Chrysler will become its vanguard electric brand. By 2028, the 96-year-old automaker’s entire lineup will be all-electric.

That’s not too much of a stretch. Chrysler only sells two vehicles right now, the decade-old 300C sedan and the Pacifica minivan, which is available as a plug-in hybrid. Today, at the Consumer Electronics Show, the company shared more details on the Airflow, a concept crossover that appears to be close to ready for production—so close, in fact, that the announcement was probably a thinly veiled preview of the company’s first EV due in 2025. 

The Airflow is powered by two 150 kW (201 hp) electric motors, one for each axle, and while Chrysler hasn’t disclosed the size of the battery, it said it is targeting 350–400 miles of range. If the company can achieve that, it would be quite the coup, rivaling the best from Tesla. Good thing it has a few years before it has to deliver.

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#cars, #chrysler, #concept-car, #crossovers, #electric-crossover, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #stellantis

Electric vehicles ask a lot of their tires—here’s why

Pirelli recently introduced a high load (HL) version of its P Zero performance tire, designed to cope with the greater mass of an electric vehicle.

Enlarge / Pirelli recently introduced a high load (HL) version of its P Zero performance tire, designed to cope with the greater mass of an electric vehicle. (credit: Pirelli)

In the past, we’ve looked at the technology that goes into winter tires—and even what makes a good racing tire. But considering that the majority of our auto coverage at Ars focuses on electric vehicles, it’s time to dig into the specialized tires those EVs have to wear.

“We like to design [the tire] as the car is being designed,” explained Ian Coke, director of quality at Pirelli. That means getting started with the OEM several years before the car is due on sale, when it’s still just a concept being developed. “Or if you’re Tesla, six weeks, because they work in a different way,” he laughed.

“We’re getting to know [Tesla] very well now,” he said, as the Italian tire company develops rubber for the automaker.

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#cars, #electric-vehicle, #pirelli, #tires

Who wants an electric superwagon? Porsche offers 590-hp GTS Sport Turismo

2022 Taycan GTS Sport Turismo rear three-quarter view

Enlarge / The GTS Sport Turismo is the wagon version the Porsche Taycan always deserved. (credit: Porsche)

When Porsche announced the Taycan Cross Turismo, plenty of automotive enthusiasts raised half an eyebrow. The car checked so many boxes—wagon body style, blazing fast, all-electric. Yet at the same time, it was lifted by 0.8 inches and festooned with the kind of black plastic body cladding that mainstream marques use to “ruggedize” their crossovers. With the right tires, the Cross Turismo is apparently a capable off-roader, but the low-slung sedan screamed for a sporty wagon counterpart, like Porsche has done with the Panamera, not a pseudo-SUV.

Well, dream hard enough and Porsche shall answer, apparently. The automaker took the wraps off the Taycan GTS Sport Turismo at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week. The handsome wagon strips the Cross Turismo of its black wheel arches and drops its suspension back down to a suitably sporty height. It also adds a healthy dollop of power over the next-best 4S model at a price that’s significantly cheaper than the top-shelf Turbo, though with a starting price of $133,300, few people will consider it cheap.

Porsche is famous for tweaking its products ad infinitum, and the Taycan is no exception. The model was first introduced as a sedan with regular, 4S, and Turbo flavors, all of which carried over to the lifted-wagon Cross Turismo. Now, with the introduction of the Sport Turismo, Porsche is adding a GTS trim for the sedan and the wagon (but not the lifted wagon).

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#cars, #electric-vehicle, #la-auto-show, #porsche-taycan, #porsche-taycan-gts-sport-turismo

Kia teases a big electric SUV with the EV9 concept

Kia will reveal the EV9 concept in Los Angeles.

Enlarge / Kia will reveal the EV9 concept in Los Angeles. (credit: Kia)

Last week, Hyundai teased a concept of a new electric SUV called “Seven.” On Thursday, it was Kia’s turn to tease its version, a concept it is calling “EV9.”

Details are scant for EV9, as they are for the Hyundai Seven, although we know it will employ Hyundai Motor Group’s new E-GMP electric vehicle platform, which uses an 800 V electrical architecture. The platform enables rapid fast charging to 80 percent in less than 20 minutes and either rear- or all-wheel drive layouts for larger-battery electric vehicles.

Like the Seven, the EV9 has a flexible and adaptive interior, although I’m slightly worried about Kia’s “radical new take on the traditional steering wheel.” There are, after all, perfectly good reasons that most cars use round steering wheels.

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#cars, #e-gmp, #electric-vehicle, #hyundai-motor-group, #kia, #kia-ev9

GM details the motors that will power its electric Hummer and other EVs

General Motors has spent a lot of time recently talking up the capabilities of its upcoming Ultium battery technology but has said significantly less so about the motors those cells will power. That changed on Tuesday when the company detailed its new Ultium Drive motors. With today’s announcement, the series consists of three different models: a 180 kW front-drive model, a 255 kW rear- and front-drive variant and a 62 kW all-wheel drive assist motor. The first two models are permanent magnet motors GM designed in such a way so as to try and reduce its dependence on heavy rare metals.

The company didn’t speak to the specific torque and power density characters of each motor but claimed they should deliver “excellent” performance on those fronts. It also revealed the 2022 Hummer EV will feature three of the 255 kW models. GM claims they will enable the vehicle to produce a combined 11,500 ft/lb of torque and accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in approximately three seconds.

GM says its engineers designed the motors with scalability in mind. Each one can be made using similar tools and manufacturing techniques. It also found a way to integrate components like the power inverter directly into the motors, a feat the company said should reduce costs and simplify manufacturing.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #gm, #hummer, #tc, #tceng, #transportation

Eli EVs begins production, European rollout of Eli ZERO, a compact two-seater

Eli Electric Vehicles, an early stage compact EV manufacturer, announced the start of production on its flagship Eli Zero, a micro “neighborhood electric vehicle” that is built for city commuting. The company plans to roll out small batches of the two-seater EV to distributors across 13 European countries over the next few months with a starting price of $11,999.

Micro-electric vehicles are on the rise with other compact quadricycles coming to market recently, including the Renault Twizy, the Citroën Ami, the tilting Triggo EV and the Squad Mobility solar-assisted car. In terms of pricing, the Eli is at the higher end of the spectrum along with the Twizy at a starting price of around $16,000. For comparison, the Ami costs around $6,000 and the Squad car costs $6,790.

While Eli is based in Los Angeles, its manufacturing partner is in China, and ongoing geopolitical tensions are part of  the reason the company is pursuing a European strategy initially. The varied laws per state on what maketh a street legal vehicle also make it difficult to go to market in the U.S. first, according to Marcus Li, CEO and founder of Eli. In Europe, the Zeros are street legal and there is already a culture around smaller, compact cars that don’t go too fast.

“In a lot of European cities, for example in Paris, they now have very strict legal speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour (19 mph), and I think we see that being a trend in European cities like Vienna and Amsterdam,” Li told TechCrunch.

The Zero, which is built of recyclable polypropylene and high-strength aluminium, has a top speed of 25 miles per hour. It’s about 7 feet long, 4.5 feet wide and 5 feet high with a storage capacity of 160 liters. The batteries have a 5.8 kWh capacity, a range of 50 miles and can charge from 0 to 100 percent in 2.5 hours at 220 volts.

The micro-vehicle also has power-assisted braking and steering, a rear camera, a parking sensor and other internal features like a USB charging port, cup holders, heat and cooling, a tiltable sunroof and a 7 inch dashboard display. The basic colors are pearl white and silver, and the premium colors available are graphite and baby blue.

Eli also recently announced its equity crowdfunding campaign via StartEngine platform. At the time of publishing this article, the company had raised $224,705 that it will use to fund further production. Li said the company has more reservations than it does vehicles at the moment, which he reckons is a good problem to have.

Eli had previously raised around $1.4 million on StartEngine’s platform and to date, has raised over $6.5 million. Li said the company had attempted to seek VC funding last year, but VCs only wanted to invest if Eli would use its vehicle for car sharing.

“At some point, to be honest, we did think about pivoting to car sharing because that’s just the feedback from most institutional investors,” said Li. “Their business model is a little different from conventional hardware companies in terms of return on investment, and they would have preferred that we go more into a car sharing and high valuation model to see a return three years down the road.”

Li said one investment group was ready to invest if Eli agreed to do the operations of a car sharing platform themselves, but this was just before the pandemic and ultimately, he’s glad the company didn’t pivot in that direction.

“We’re taking a very traditional approach to sales,” said Li. “We’re not doing B2C. We’re selling through an established distributor called KSR Group and they have their launch strategy first to Austria, Germany and Switzerland and then to more countries in Europe.”

Using a distributor helps Eli as an early stage startup so they can outsource things like servicing, deliveries and test drives, says Li.

“Our goal is to revolutionize urban trips, connect cities and communities in a new way that reduces congestion and pollution.,” said Li in a statement. “As urban areas continue to grow along with a rapidly changing climate, opening up a space for micro-EVs like Eli ZERO that is energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable.”

#automotive, #electric-vehicle, #quadricycle, #tc, #transportation

Volkswagen’s electric ID.4 was already good—does AWD change that?

CHATTANOOGA, TENN.—Volkswagen in 2021 seems like a rather different company than Volkswagen circa 2015. The company has transformed itself in the wake of dieselgate, and it’s found forgiveness in the arms of American consumers as evidenced by skyrocketing SUV sales. VW has also thrown itself wholeheartedly into electrification, applying the approach of a highly modular platform that can be used to build a range of battery electric vehicles including hatchbacks considered too small for the US and that electric bus everyone loves so much.

In North America, the ID.4 is the tip of the electric spear, an electric crossover that’s pitched perfectly at our automotive mode du jour. We’ve already driven the ID.4 a couple of times: briefly as a pre-production prototype, then for a couple of days on home turf. It wasn’t particularly flashy, and there were a couple of things that needed tweaking. Yet, overall, we were impressed. (And we weren’t alone.)

At launch, the ID.4 was only available in a single configuration: an 82 kWh (gross, 77 kWh useable) lithium-ion battery powering a 201 hp (150 kW), 229 lb-ft (310 Nm) permanent magnet synchronous electric motor at the rear axle. But American car buyers like power, and they love all-wheel drive (for potentially misguided reasons about traction and grip, but that’s neither here nor there).

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bev, #cars, #chattanooga, #dieselgate, #electric-crossover, #electric-vehicle, #features, #meb, #volkswagen, #volkswagen-id-4

Michigan State Police to begin testing Ford Mach-E Interceptors

The next time you get pulled over in Michigan, it could be by a cop in an electric SUV — at least if Ford has anything to say about it. The American automaker is stepping up its Police Interceptor program, which modifies existing models for use by law enforcement, typically with beefed up suspensions, brakes and added horsepower.

The company has pitched the idea to law enforcement agencies in the UK, while the city of Ann Arbor, MI already has two such vehicles on order. On Friday, Ford announced that it, in short order, will deliver one of its Mustang Mach-E Interceptor prototypes — which appears to be based on the Mach-E GT variant — to the Michigan State Police as well, where it will undergo real-world testing to see if the EV can handle the rigors of police work.

Ford hopes to “use the pilot program testing as a benchmark while it continues to explore purpose-built electric police vehicles in the future” as part of its $30 billion multi-year investment in EV technology.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #ford, #mach-e, #mustang, #tc, #tceng

Squad Mobility eyes shared platforms as target for its compact solar electric quadricycle

Squad Mobility’s vision of the perfect urban vehicle is a low-cost EV equipped with solar panels, swappable batteries and enough zip and range in its diminutive 6.5-foot package to meet the needs of city drivers.

The early stage Dutch startup, which recently revealed the final design of its quadricycle, is now assembling working prototypes in Breda, the Netherlands. Squad has said the vehicle will have a base price of €5,750 ($6,790), excluding taxes. That price goes up if buyers want to add features like removable doors, air conditioning, heating and extra batteries.

Squad plans to present the prototypes this fall, Robert Hoevers, CEO and co-founder of the company said in a recent interview. Pre-production is also expected to begin this year with a goal to start delivering the car at the end of 2022.

Squad, like so many other new entrants to the EV car scene, will need more funds to reach its target.

In June, the company raised an undisclosed amount from Bloomit Ventures. To reach its production goals, Hoevers estimates Squad will need an additional €3.5 million ($4.1 million) for its next round, and then another €8 million ($9.6 million) to be able to deliver the first Squads. The company has not yet announced a round publicly, but says it’s in talks with various interested parties.

Interested customers can go on Squad’s website and pay a €5 reserve fee, but where Squad really sees its path to market is with shared mobility companies. The startup says it is in talks with a range of micromobility and car sharing operators that might be interested in diversifying their fleets with a compact, smart vehicle.

The Squad, which is a combination of the words “solar” and “quadricycle,” seats two, punches up to 30 miles per hour and is fueled by two swappable batteries with a capacity of around 1.6 Kwh each and a collective range of about 62 miles. This is similar to the battery capacity and range of electric mopeds.

For the average European city driver, that should be enough range. Squad also installed a 250-watt solar panel to the vehicle, which the company says adds another 12 miles per day given the amount of sun Europe tends to get.

Rendering of a Squad charging station for swappable batteries that can be used by shared mobility operators

Squad is coming onto the scene at the intersection of new mobility categories and EV charging innovation, which could be appealing to shared mobility operators looking to solve more use cases.

Shared micromobility companies are beginning to add electric mopeds to their fleets of e-scooters and e-bikes. The Squad could appeal to operators that want to appeal to a broader demographic, and one specifically more comfortable in a four-wheeled vehicle.

The potential savings from harnessing the power of the sun could attract operators as well. In the micromobility world, the labor costs associated with swapping batteries or charging vehicles represent a roadblock to profitability. A vehicle that’s constantly on a bit of a charge, at least during the daylight hours, might help alleviate that pain point.

“The idea is not to drive directly on solar,” Hoevers told TechCrunch. “The idea is to buffer the batteries with solar and then drive on the batteries. The sun is more or less drip charging the battery throughout the day, which is actually a very healthy way of charging. You don’t want to top off your batteries to 100%. You want to keep them at around 50% to 60% all the time for a longer battery life.”

Hoevers said Squad has been in talks with shared micromobility providers to pitch the quadricycle, and has found that most dockless vehicles see about four to five rides per day and drive about 36 to 38 miles per day, numbers that TechCrunch confirmed with a few micromobility operators and that are well within the range of the Squad car.

Squad also intends to equip its vehicles with cameras, sensors and other smart features like remote diagnostics and maintenance, which will make the company more attractive to shared operators looking a fleet that can be integrated into its management platforms. Hoevers also says he and his co-founder, Chris Klok, have used their collective 40 years of experience in mobility and shared past at long range solar EV company Lightyear, to develop a a strong CAN bus and drivetrain upon which new features can be added.

Whether Squad ends up selling fleets to micromobility platforms or car-sharing platforms might depend on the category the vehicle ends up in. With its current speed and weight, the Squad car will be in the L6e category for light four-wheeled vehicles.

“There are interesting cost and tax benefits in this segment,” said Hoevers. “For example, there is no congestion charge, no road tax, no parking fees, low insurance fees and no car driving license needed in most markets.”

Hoevers said the company is also considering producing a more powerful L7 that can go top speeds of around 45 miles per hour, which might be better for cities with more hills.

The competition

Squad isn’t the only company that has added solar panels to its electric vehicles. Germany-based startup Sono Motors told TechCrunch that it’s on track to begin deliveries of its electric Sion vehicle by 2023. The vehicle’s exterior is composed of hundreds of solar cells that have been integrated into polymer instead of glass and can add up to nearly 22 miles of extra battery life per day.

Although the Sion has not yet been released, the Sono app is already inviting owners of the vehicle to engage in a sort of car-sharing that’s reminiscent of Airbnb for Sions in order to make use of vehicles that otherwise sit parked and useless for most of the day. As of Thursday, Sono is expanding this vision to allow any car to be shared via the Sono app.

Aptera Motors, a California company that has promised to roll out the “first mass-produced solar car” this year, raised $4 million in a Series A this February that it is using to pay for fiberglass, carbon fiber and batteries for its spaceship-looking tricycle. Aptera says its vehicle, which is available for pre-order and could cost anywhere between $25,900 and $46,900, will be built with 34 square feet of solar cells that can add an additional 40 miles of battery capacity on a clear day.

Each of the players in the solar-powered EV space have differences in tech, path to market and style, but they’re all potentially finding ways to ease the strain on the electrical grid.

In the Netherlands, new electric cars make up 25% of total market share, and that number will only increase. It might not be feasible in the long run for all of those vehicles to each plug into the grid to power up, especially when industries across sectors are beginning to electrify.

While it’s clear that the technology isn’t there yet for vehicles to run purely on solar, Squad and other companies like it are laying the groundwork for future solar technology.

#automotive, #electric-vehicle, #shared-mobility, #tc, #transportation

GM throws LG under the bus as Chevy Bolt production pauses amid recall

GM throws LG under the bus as Chevy Bolt production pauses amid recall

(credit: Jeffrey Sauger / Chevrolet)

General Motors has lost confidence in battery supplier LG Chem after defective cells from the company caused a string of fires and sparked a massive recall of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles and electric utility vehicles.

The automaker recalled more than 140,000 electric cars and crossovers—every single one that the company has made—when it discovered two simultaneously occurring defects in the LG-made batteries. GM suspects the defects are behind the 10 fires the company has identified so far.

LG Chem makes the battery packs for every Chevy Bolt, and while the problem was initially traced to one of LG’s Korean plants, subsequent investigations revealed that other LG plants were pumping out bad cells, too.

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#cars, #chevrolet-bolt-euv, #chevrolet-bolt-ev, #electric-vehicle, #gm, #lg-chem

Misaligned factory robot may have sparked Chevy Bolt battery fires

Misaligned factory robot may have sparked Chevy Bolt battery fires

Enlarge (credit: Chevrolet)

GM announced last Friday that it was recalling every Chevrolet Bolt it had ever made, including the new electric utility vehicle model that debuted this year. After a string of fires affected Bolt models, the company traced the problem to two simultaneously occurring defects in the cars’ LG Chem-made batteries.

The automaker initially discovered the problem in batteries from one of LG’s Korean plants, and it recalled cars with those cells last November. But then more Bolts caught fire, and other LG plants were ensnared in the investigation, spurring two expansions of the recall. The problem, GM said, has been traced to a torn anode tab and a folded separator. 

That’s all GM has said so far. It hasn’t said how widespread the defects are, nor has it said how, exactly, the fires started. But in what little information has been released, and in the timing of GM’s recalls, there are clues. To decipher them, Ars spoke with Greg Less, technical director of the University of Michigan’s Battery Lab.

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#battery-fire, #battery-recall, #cars, #chevrolet-bolt, #electric-vehicle, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery

GM recalls every Chevy Bolt ever made, blames LG for faulty batteries

Promotional image of electric vehicle about to be charged.

Enlarge (credit: GM)

GM has announced that it is recalling every Chevrolet Bolt made to date, including the new EUV models, over concerns that a manufacturing defect in its LG-made batteries could cause a fire.

The Bolt was first recalled in November after five cars that hadn’t been in crashes caught fire. After investigating the problem further, Chevy recalled a second batch in July. The problem was traced to two manufacturing defects which could occur simultaneously. The defects—a torn anode tab and folded separator—created conditions that could lead to a short in affected cells. So far, the company has identified 10 fires that involve faulty batteries, according to an AP report. 

This third and latest recall includes 73,000 Bolts made from 2019–2022, the current model year. This brings the total recall to nearly 142,000 cars, with over 100,000 having been sold in the US. GM estimates that the initial recalls will cost $800 million, and it expects the new one to add $1 billion to the total. GM said it will be seeking reimbursement from LG.

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#cars, #chevrolet-bolt, #chevrolet-bolt-euv, #electric-vehicle, #gm, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-batteries

This teardrop trailer could be perfect for electric vehicle camping

I’m a big believer in taking electric vehicles camping. But charging infrastructure in the US is still patchy enough that a week in the wilderness might induce too much range anxiety to be practical. That’s particularly true if your idea of camping involves a trailer rather than a tent; nothing saps an EV’s range quite like towing.

A new camper from Colorado Teardrops might solve this issue. The camper is called the Boulder, after the company’s home base, where it has been building teardrop trailers since 2014. But this one is a bit different from the company’s more conventional teardrop campers.

Usually, towing has a double-whammy effect on EV range, massively increasing drag while adding a lot of extra mass; this combination is often enough to halve an EV’s range on a full charge. The Boulder’s shape has been subjected to computational fluid dynamics simulations to combat the deleterious effects of added wind resistance and ensure that the camper is as low-drag as possible. The company also applied lightweighting to the trailer to get the overall weight down to 1,950 lbs (885 kg).

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #camping, #cars, #colorado-teardrop-campers, #electric-vehicle, #towing, #trailer

The Porsche Taycan 4S: Better than a 911? Believe it

It’s been almost two years since I first met the Porsche Taycan, the stylish and swift electric vehicle that ticks all the right boxes. Since then, withdrawal has set in. I’ve been desperate for another fix of this EV that still feels like the happy result of a transporter accident involving a Porsche 928 and an iPhone. My initial impressions were formed driving through Denmark and northern Germany, and I wanted to know if those held up on domestic roads and surrounded by our domestic EV infrastructure.

The introduction of the more affordable Taycan 4S seemed like a good reason to revisit the car, but Porsche wanted us to stretch the car’s legs on a proper road trip. There was one trip in particular that I had in mind: DC to Watkins Glen, NY, a trek to coincide with the annual six hour IMSA race. The pandemic dashed any hopes of attempting that trip in 2020, but this year the stars aligned, and so it is I recently spent a week with the sleek white four-door electric sports car you see above.

For a detailed technical look at the Taycan, please refer to our previous coverage here and here. Briefly, the 4S has a pair of electric motors (one for each axle) that output a combined 360 kW (482 hp) and 650 Nm (479 lb-ft) (or 420 kW/562 hp when using launch control), fed by a 93.4 kWh (net) battery. Our test car was equipped with the larger Performance Battery Plus option, which bumps the starting price from $103,800 to $109,370 before tax credits.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bev, #car-review, #cars, #dc-fast-charging, #electric-car, #electric-vehicle, #electrify-america, #ev, #features, #porsche, #porsche-taycan, #porsche-taycan-4s, #road-trip, #watkins-glen

What Tesla’s bet on iron-based batteries means for manufacturers

Elon Musk earlier this week made his most bullish statements yet on iron-based batteries, noting that Tesla is making a “long-term shift” toward older, cheaper lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cells in its energy storage products and some entry-level EVs.

The Tesla CEO mused that the company’s batteries may eventually be roughly two-thirds iron-based and one-third nickel-based across its products. “And this is actually good because there’s plenty of iron in the world,” he added.

Musk’s comments reflect a change that is already underway within the automotive sector, mainly in China. Battery chemistries outside of China have been predominantly nickel-based — specifically nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA). These newer chemistries have become attractive to automakers due to their higher energy density, letting original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) improve the range of their batteries.

If Musk’s bullishness is heralding a genuine shift across the EV industry, the question is whether battery makers outside of China will be able to keep up.

Musk is not the only automotive executive to signal a return to the LFP formula. Earlier this year, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the company would use LFP batteries in some commercial vehicles. Meanwhile, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess announced during the company’s inaugural battery day presentation that LFP would be used in some VW entry-level EVs.

On the energy storage front, Musk’s comments about using LFP-based chemistries in Powerwall and Megapack are in line with other stationary energy storage companies pushing for iron-based formulas. “The stationary storage industry wants to move to LFP because it’s cheaper,” Sam Jaffe, who heads the battery research firm Cairn Energy Research Advisors, told TechCrunch.

LFP battery cells are attractive for a few different reasons. For one, they’re not dependent on ultra-scarce and price-volatile raw materials like cobalt and nickel. (Cobalt, which is predominantly sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has undergone additional scrutiny due to inhumane mining conditions.) And while they are less energy-dense than nickel-based chemistries, LFP batteries are much cheaper. This is good news for those looking to spur the shift to electric vehicles because lowering the cost per vehicle will likely be key to greater EV adoption.

Musk clearly sees a major future for iron-based chemistries at Tesla, and his comments have helped thrust LFP back into the spotlight. But there’s one place where they’ve remained the star of the show: China.

China’s monopoly on LFP

“LFP is pretty much only produced in China,” Caspar Rawles, head of price and data assessments at the research firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, explained in a recent interview with TechCrunch.

China’s dominance in LFP battery production in part relates to a series of key LFP patents, which are managed by a consortium of universities and research institutions. This consortium came to an agreement with Chinese battery makers a decade ago under which the manufacturers would not be charged a licensing fee providing that the LFP batteries were used only in Chinese markets.

Hence, China cornered the LFP market.

Battery makers in China may benefit most from a potential tectonic shift toward LFP — specifically BYD and CATL, the latter of which already manufactures LFP batteries for Tesla vehicles built and sold in China. (Volkswagen, meanwhile, has a substantial stake in Chinese LFP maker Gotion High-Tech.) These battery makers aren’t slowing down: In January, CATL and Shenzhen Dynanonic signed an agreement with a local Chinese province to build an LFP cathode plant at a cost of $280 million over three years.

The LFP patents are due to expire in 2022, industry analyst Roskill explains, which could give battery manufacturers outside China time to start shifting some of their production toward iron-based formulas. However, all of the planned battery factories in Europe and North America, many of which are joint ventures with South Korean industry giants like LG Chem or SK Innovation, are still focused on nickel-based chemistries.

“For the U.S. to take advantage of LFP’s strengths, North American manufacturing will be necessary,” Jaffe explained. “Everyone building a gigafactory in the U.S. today is planning on making high nickel chemistries. There’s an enormous unmet need for locally manufactured LFP batteries.”

Rawles said he expects some LFP capacity in North America and Europe in the coming years, particularly after the patents expire. He pointed out that both CATL and SVOLT, another battery maker, have been making moves in Germany — but both of these companies are Chinese, which leaves open the question of whether other Asian or Western companies can compete in the LFP market. (Stellantis chose SVOLT as one of its battery suppliers from 2025 onwards.)

On the energy storage front, Jaffe said he thinks “it’s inevitable that most stationary storage systems will eventually be LFP.”

However, not all is lost for domestic manufacturing in the United States. “The good news for building local LFP manufacturing is that the supply chain is simple: Outside of lithium, it’s iron and phosphoric acid, two cheap materials already made [in the U.S.] in large quantities,” Jaffe added.

In the end, it is not a question of one battery chemistry versus another. What’s more likely is what we’ve already started to see from automakers, including Tesla: Iron-based batteries will be used predominately in entry-level and cheaper vehicles, while nickel-based cells will be used for higher-end and performance cars. Many consumers will likely be content with a 200- to 250-mile-range vehicle that’s thousands of dollars cheaper than one with a range of 300 to 350 miles.

Automakers have also begun making moves to take control of the battery supply, whether through vertical manufacturing or joint ventures with established battery companies. That means that growing LFP capacity in North America and Europe is not only likely, but inevitable.

#automotive, #catl, #china, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-batteries, #elon-musk, #ford, #tesla, #transportation, #volkswagen

Automakers have battery anxiety, so they’re taking control of the supply

Battery joint ventures have become the hot must-have deal for automakers that have set ambitious targets to deliver millions of electric vehicles in the next few years.

It’s no longer just about securing a supply of cells. The string of partnerships and joint ventures show that automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells, .

Automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells.

And the deals don’t appear to be slowing down. Just this week, Mercedes-Benz announced its $47 billion plan to become an electric-only automaker by 2030. Securing its battery supply chain by expanding existing partnerships or locking in new ones to jointly develop and produce battery cells and modules is a critical piece of its plan.

Mercedes, like other automakers, is also focused on developing and deploying advanced battery technology. In addition to setting up eight new battery plants to supply its future EVs, the German automaker said it was partnering with Sila Nano, the Silicon Valley battery chemistry startup that it has previously invested in, to increase energy density, which should in turn improve range and allow for shorter charging times.

“This follows a trend that we’ve seen of automakers realizing how critical the battery is and taking more control of the production of the cells in order to ensure their own supply,” Sila Nano CEO Gene Berdichevsky said in a recent interview. “Like if you’re VW, and you say, ‘We’re going to go 50% electric by whatever year,’ but then the batteries don’t show up, you’re bankrupt, you’re dead. Their scale is so big that even if their cell partners have promised them to deliver, automakers are scared that they won’t.”

Tesla, BMW and Volkswagen were early adopters of the battery joint-venture strategy. In 2014,Tesla and Panasonic signed an agreement to build a large battery manufacturing plant, or a gigafactory as everyone is now calling it, in the U.S. and have worked together since. BMW began working with Solid Power in 2017 to create solid-state batteries for high-performance EVs that could potentially lower costs by requiring less safety features than lithium-ion batteries.

In addition to its partnership with Northvolt, VW is also in talks with suppliers to secure more direct access to supplies like semiconductors and lithium so it can keep its existing plants running at full speed.

Now the rest of the industry is moving to work with battery companies, to share knowledge and resources and essentially become the manufacturer.

#automotive, #basf, #bmw, #ec-mobility-hardware, #electric-vehicle, #ford, #general-motors, #greentech, #hyundai, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #panasonic, #porsche, #renault, #sk-innovation, #solidenergy-systems, #tc, #tesla, #toyota, #transportation, #volkswagen

GM recalls Bolt EVs once again over fire risks

GM is issuing a second recall for 2017 to 2019 Bolt EVs over potential fire issues. The company says it plans to replace defective batteries, but until it can do so it’s advising Bolt customers to limit their charging up to 90 percent, and not to go below 70 miles of range. It’s also reiterating a recommendation from last week against parking indoors and leaving the car’s to charge overnight unattended. This latest recall follows a similar one from last November, where GM recalled more than 68,000 Bolts.

The company also suggests that Bolt customers visit their nearest Chevy EV dealer to get the advanced diagnostics software, which should alert them ahead of any future battery issues. Hyundai, which also sources batteries from LG Chem like GM, ended up replacing more than 75,000 batteries for its Kona EV.

While it may sound alarming — GM’s recalls were triggered by five Bolt fires between 2017 and 2019 — it’s worth noting that gas cars typically cause around 150 fires a day, according to a FEMA report. Still, EV makers need to prove they can responsibly deal with potential issues before they can hurt more people (and before it leads to more negative sentiment towards electric vehicles).

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#bolt-ev, #column, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #gm, #recall, #tc, #tceng

BMW abandons the i3, the car that could have birthed a bright electric future

The BMW i3 has reached the end of the line. Two weeks ago, BMW confirmed that this is the last month the company will be making its quirky and often misunderstood electric vehicle for US customers. In doing so, the automaker acknowledged what many EV owners, enthusiasts, and observers have long believed: the company, which was once lauded as a leader in electrification, has squandered the last eight years.

I don’t say this lightly or without experience—I owned a 2014 BMW i3 for nearly five years. It was my first electric vehicle, and I loved it. Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t sold it. Other times, I’m glad I did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was unique and fun to drive, and it felt years ahead of its time.

The i3 was a polarizing car. Its upright, narrow body rolled on skinny tires, and its layered design was loved or loathed, depending on the customer. But no matter how you feel about the i3, it was a car made by a company with a clear vision of the future, pursued with tenacity and purpose. BMW pitched the i3 as the foundation of an entirely new line, and BMW could have seriously iterated on the design. There was talk in the early days of how easy it would be to simply drop a new carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body onto the brilliantly engineered aluminum chassis, creating a suite of models that would explore a wide range of electrified mobility.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bmw, #bmw-i, #bmw-i3, #cars, #electric-vehicle

Inside GM’s startup incubator strategy

GM has launched a series of new subsidiaries in the past year tackling electrification, connectivity and even insurance — all part of the automaker’s aim to find value (and profits) beyond its traditional business of making, selling and financing vehicles. These startups, including numerous ones that will never make the cut, get their start under Vice President of Innovation Pam Fletcher’s watch.

Fletcher, who joined TechCrunch on June 9 at the virtual TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event, runs a group of 170 people developing and launching startups with a total addressable market of about $1.3 trillion.

Today, about 19 companies are making their way through the incubator in hopes of joining recent GM startups like OnStar Guardian, OnStar Insurance, GM Defense and BrightDrop, the commercial electric vehicle delivery business that launched in January. Not everything will make it, Fletcher told the audience, noting “we add new things all the time.”

Launching any startup presents challenges. But launching multiple startups within a 113-year-old automaker that employs 155,000 people globally is another, more complex matter. The bar, which determines whether these startups are ever publicly launched, is specific and high. A GM startup has to be a new idea that can attract new customers and grow the total addressable market for the automaker, using existing assets and IP.

The Volt effect

The 2010 Chevrolet Volt is a noteworthy moment on the GM timeline. The vehicle marked the company’s first commercial push into electrification since the 1990s EV1 program. Fletcher, who was the chief engineer of the Chevy Volt propulsion system from 2008 to 2011, noted that the Volt was the beginning of a change within the automaker that eventually led to other commercial products including the all-electric Chevy Bolt, the hands-free driver assistance system Super Cruise and its current work on autonomous vehicle development with its subsidiary Cruise.

I don’t know that the Volt was a root exactly of what we’re seeing today. But I think it was definitely the start of a groundswell of really looking at, how do we inject technology that customers are excited about and care about quickly? How do we engage them deeply in the process? … Which we’ve always done … just, I think there was a climate there where the appetite was so strong with a certain group of customers for the technology that it allowed us to get really a front row seat with them, which was game changing for those of us on the frontlines. And obviously, there have been many programs that have had that in their own ways, but you really see that accelerating now with the advent of everything we’re doing in electrification and autonomous and a portfolio that is just emerging even to the notion of applying some of these great technologies to our new full size, truck and SUV programs. So it’s really broad, based across the company, which is exciting. (Timestamp: 4:56)

Fletcher explained how working to commercialize new technology changed how the company interacted with customers.

With new technologies, one, you get to a new customer base sometimes. So, really understanding what that customer is looking like and putting them at the center of everything. Also, different technologies have different development processes and timelines and pipelines for activity. So, it really allowed us to start to think about how to approach each step of our product development and customer engagement differently. And the Volt was an interesting time too, because that was the advent of new social media was really starting to become much more popular. And so we were very connected with those customers and a great customer base that gave us tremendous feedback very directly, you know, through at the time, what was a new channel. (Timestamp: 3:50)

#automotive, #cruise-automation, #ec-techcrunch-tc-mobility, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #evtol, #general-motors, #gm, #mary-barra, #pam-fletcher, #tc, #transportation

How Amazon-owned Zoox designed its self-driving vehicles to prevent crashes and protect if they do

The hubbub surrounding the autonomous vehicle industry often focuses on venture capital rounds, speculation about IPOs and acquisitions. But the industry’s future also hinges on the high-stakes task of proving the technology can operate safer than human drivers do today and gaining the public’s trust. In short: safety matters.

Zoox issued a safety report Tuesday that aims to give new insight into its custom electric autonomous vehicle and describes in greater detail various design details aimed at preventing crashes and protecting if they do.

“As you know, and something everybody keeps talking about, is that part of the rationale for doing AVs is because of safety, safety, safety, but they never get to the next bullet (point) right? What are you going to actually do to prevent those crashes, to save those lives?” Mark Rosekind, the company’s chief safety innovation officer and former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

Rosekind this latest report says answers those questions.

Zoox is a bit different from its rivals. It isn’t just developing the self-driving software stack. The company is responsible for creating the on-demand ride-sharing app and the vehicle itself. Zoox also plans to own, manage and operate its robotaxi fleet.

Zoox unveiled in December the electric, autonomous robotaxi it built from the ground up — a cube-like vehicle loaded with sensors, no steering wheel and a moonroof that is capable of transporting four people at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour. At the time, Zoox shared a few specs on the four-seat vehicle, including the face-to-face symmetrical seating configuration, similar to what a train traveler might encounter, and the 133 kilowatt-hour battery that the company said allows it to operate for up to 16 continuous hours on a single charge. But not everything was revealed, particularly details about how it would protect occupants in the vehicle as well as the pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers it will be sharing the road with.

To be clear, Zoox is not the only AV company issuing safety reports. Voluntary safety self-assessment reports, or VSSAs, have become fairly common in the industry. These voluntary safety reports, which are included in NHTSA’s Automated Driving Systems VSSA Disclosure Index, are supposed to cover 12 areas, including the vehicle’s design, crash simulation scenarios, benchmarks for testing as well as protective measures for occupants and other road users.

Zoox’s first safety report came out in 2018, which outlined the company’s “prevent and protect” philosophy. This latest one reveals how Zoox plans to meet its safety goals, including specific details on the design of the vehicle. And more safety reports are coming — per a few hints in this latest one — including details about its collision avoidance system and the lighting system the vehicle uses for communicating with other road users.

Zoox has designed and built more than 100 safety innovations into its purposeful vehicle. Rosekind shared details on nine of them that fall into three categories: driving control, no single point of failure and rider protection.

Driving control

Zoox at Coit Tower

Image Credits: Zoox

Zoox’s purpose-built vehicle has independent braking and inactive suspension system, which means that each of the brakes has its own electronic control unit, allowing for more control over traction on the road, weight distribution and an active suspension. All of that translates to shorter stopping distances.

The vehicle also has four-wheel steering, which Rosekind noted doesn’t exist on any car on the road today, and is bidirectional. Four wheel steering allows the vehicle to simultaneously adjust where it is headed and its position within the lane.

“Once our software has determined the path for the vehicle, it’ll stay on that path down to centimeters accuracy — even at speed through a curb, Rosekind explained.

The four-wheel steering combined with the vehicle’s symmetrical design allows for it to travel bidirectionally. The bidirectional capability means no more U-turns or three-point turns, two maneuvers that are more complex, time consuming and can make occupants more vulnerable to oncoming traffic. 

No single point of failure

Rosekind said the company’s design objective was that there would be no single point of failure for its safety critical systems. For instance, the vehicle has two powertrains. The motors, drive systems and batteries work in conjunction with each other. If one component in the system fails, the other one will take over.

The vehicle also has two batteries as well as a safety diagnostics system that monitors all of the hardware, software and firmware. Sensors like lidar and. radar are also placed on the four corners of the vehicle, each one which provides a 270-degree field of view.

The diagnostic system goes beyond monitoring and will mitigate a failure or performance problem that it identifies. For instance, if a sensor has degraded performance from damage or debris, it will activate a cleaning system on the vehicle or turn it from bidirectional to unidirectional, so the sensor in a position where basically doesn’t matter if it is obscured, Rosekind explained. 

“Failsafe operational means it’s going to continue the ride, let you out, and then go take care of whatever the issue is, or pull over to a safe spot,” he said.

Rider protection

Zoox Seatbelt Notification

Image Credits: Zoox

Zoox’s goal is for its vehicle to meet a five-star crash protection for every seat in the vehicle. The vehicles are currently going through crash testing now, Rosekind said, adding that it is “going quite well and almost complete.”

The company also designed a new kind of airbag system that contains five different airbags. Curtain airbags are on each side of the vehicle, a frontal one is divided in two parts to protect the head, neck and chest. There are also rear and side seat airbags.

Within the system is an airbag control unit that can monitor where a collision is coming as well as the velocity and determine which airbags and in what order to deploy. Instead of every airbag deploying at once, they will inflate based on the collision location and the severity of the impact.

Finally, the vehicle has sensors in the seat, the buckle and even the coating on the webbing of the seatbelt to be able to tell if passengers are using the seatbelt. The vehicle will not start until everybody’s buckled up, Rosekind said.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicle, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #transportation, #zoox

The Station: Waymo nabs more capital, Cruise taps a $5B credit line and hints about Argo’s future

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

A few Extra Crunch items highlight before we jump into things. This week, we published an interview with Refraction AI co-founder and CTO Matthew Johnson-Roberson as part of an ongoing series focused on transportation founders. TechCrunch has been following autonomous delivery startup since it came out of stealth on our stage in 2019. Refraction, which built its vehicle to travel in bike lanes up to 15 miles per hour, has been testing in AnnArbor, Michigan. Now, it’s expanding to Austin. Our interview with Johnson-Roberson reveals the premise behind the company, what prompted him to step down as CEO and some of the challenges in the industry. The twist with this series? We plan to check in on every founder we interview a year after their Q&A is published.

Later this month, we’ll feature an interview with Candice Xie, the CEO and co-founder of Veo.

Finally, we have a fresh round of recaps from the TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event held June 9. Each recap provides a rundown of the conversation as well as some key quotes from our panelists. The recaps also include the video of the session.

Email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Deal of the week

money the station

Taking autonomous vehicle technology from the “lab,” — ok, from the closed track — to commercial scale is a pricey endeavor. Not every AV developer has success raising money or access to debt. Waymo does.

The company has raised another $2.5 billion in external funding about 15 months after its first external round brought in $2.25 billion. (That round was later expanded by $700 million a few months later.) The round appears to be mostly existing investors including parent company Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Magna International, Mubadala Investment Company, Perry Creek Capital, Silver Lake, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Temasek. Tiger Global was the investor newcomer.

The funding announcement comes a few months after CEO John Krafcik left the company after five years in the position. The CEO position is now being held jointly by Tekedra Mawakana, former COO, and Dmitri Dolgov, who joined the original self-driving project at Google and was CTO.

More than $2 billion is a hefty haul. Although numerous folks,  some of whom are in the financial sector, reached out to me to share reactions of surprise that it wasn’t larger. I’m more interested in how that money is being put to work. Waymo has now brought in nearly $6 billion in outside investment since March 2020.

Other deals that my attention …

Bringg, a software developer focused on helping retailers with last-mile logistics, raised $100 million in a Series E round of funding led by Insight Partners. Salesforce Ventures, Viola Growth, Next 47, Pereg Ventures, Harlap, GLP and Cambridge Capital — all previous backers — also invested. Bringg CEO Guy Bloch told TechCrunch that the funding will be used both to continue growing Bringg’s customer base, but also the company’s ca

CAI International, the tansportation finance and logistics company,  agreed to a $1.1 billion takeover by Mitsubishi HC Capital. This is an all-stock deal that is comprised of $104 million worth of preferred stock and $986 million of common stock equity value, Reuters reported.

Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a mobile telematics and analytics, has acquired TrueMotion. The company didn’t disclose the terms. CMT will now provide telematics services to 21 out of the 25 largest auto insurers in the United States, and across more than 20 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Japan and Australia.

Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of GM, secured a $5 billion line of credit from the automaker’s financial arm to pay for hundreds of purpose-built electric and autonomous Origin vehicles as they start to roll off the assembly line. The access to the credit provided by GM Financial will push Cruise’s “total war chest” to more than $10 billion as it prepares for commercialization, CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a blog post. In short: the credit will be used to buy these Cruise Origins from GM, which is assembling the autonomous vehicles at its renamed and renovated Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The factory is now called Factory ZERO.

Electriphi, a battery management and fleet monitoring software startup based in San Francisco, was acquired by Ford. The acquisition, the terms of which neither party would disclose, aims to round out Ford’s future EV commercial business. The automaker already has two electric commercial vehicles in pipeline, the  E-transit cargo and F-150 Lighting Pro pickup truck. Ford is betting that the software developed by the three-year-old San Francisco startup will help it capture more than $1 billion in revenue just from charging by 2030.

Gopuff, the on-demand goods, food and alcohol delivery service, acquired fleet management platform rideOS for $115 million, sources familiar with the deal told TechCrunch. This acquisition comes just a few months after the Philadelphia-based startup announced a $1.15 billion funding round at a $8.9 billion valuation, up from $3.9 billion in October. Last fall, the company also raised $380 million and bought BevMo, a beverage retailer. Gopuff did not share its updated valuation with this new acquisition.

KeepTruckin, a hardware and software developer that helps trucking fleets manage vehicle, cargo and driver safety, raised $190 million in a Series E funding round, which puts the company’s valuation at over $2 billion, according to CEO Shoaib Makani. G2 Venture Partners, which just raised a $500 million fund to help modernize existing industries, participated in the round, alongside existing backers Greenoaks Capital, Index Ventures, IVP and Scale Venture Partners and funds managed by BlackRock.

Kodiak Robotics, the Silicon Valley-based startup developing autonomous trucks, has a new investor. Tire-making giant Bridgestone has taken a minority stake in the AV startup as part of a broader partnership to test and develop smart tire technology. While the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Kodiak Robotics co-founder and CEO Don Burnette told TechCrunch that this is a direct financial investment. Bridgestone CTO Nizar Trigui has also joined the Kodiak board as an observer. The two companies also formed a strategic partnership focused on advancing Bridgestone’s tire tech and fleet management system.

MachineMetrics, a data startup focused on manufacturing, raised $20 million in Series B round led by industrial automation and robotics Teradyne. Ridgeline Ventures also participated along with existing investors Tola Capital and Hyperplane.

Mister Car Wash, a car wash company owned by Leonard Green & Partners and based in my hometown, has set the terms for its initial public offering. The company said in a regulatory filing that it will issue 37.5 million with the expectation of a per share price between $15 and $17.

Motorway, a U.K. startup that allows professional car dealers to bid in an auction for privately owned cars for sale, raised £48 million ($67.7 million) in a Series B round led by Index Ventures, along with new investors BMW iVentures and Unbound. Existing investors Latitude and Marchmont Ventures also participated. The funding will be used to extend its platform and grow the current 160-strong team.

PayCargo, the Freight payment platform company, raised $125 million in a Series B round led by Insight Partners.

Solid Power, a solid-state battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, locked in a deal to merge with special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp III, at a post-deal implied market valuation of $1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate around $600 million in cash, including a $165 million private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction from investors Koch Strategic Platforms, Riverstone Energy Limited, Neuberger Berman and Van Eck Associates Corporation.

Vertical Aerospace is yet another electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft startup to take the SPAC path to the public markets. The UK-based eVTOL developer, which is backed by American Airlines, Avolon, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce and Microsoft’s M12, has agreed to merge with special purposed acquisition company Broadstone Acquisition Corp., at an implied $2.2 billion valuation.

Woven Capital made an undisclosed investment in Ridecell, a platform powering digital transformations and IoT automation for fleet-driven businesses. Woven Capital is an $800 million global investment fund that supports innovative, growth-stage companies in mobility, automation, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, connectivity, and smart cities. It is the investment arm of the Woven Planet Group, a Toyota subsidiary which is dedicated to building the safest mobility in the world. Along with the investment, Ridecell and the Woven Planet Group will explore collaborative opportunities in mobility service operations.

Hints at Argo’s future

the station autonomous vehicles1

You might have noticed under “deal of the week” that Ford acquired a fleet management and charging monitor software company called Electriphi. When the deal was announced, I found myself wondering aloud if the software would be used by the company for its eventual commercial fleet of robotaxis? And that got me thinking about Argo AI, the startup developing the self-driving system for backers Ford and VW.

I was pointed to some comments made Ford CEO Jim Farley, which suggests that maybe Argo will play a larger role in commercial operations than expected. Farley was asked during the Deutsche Bank’s Global Auto Industry Conference what he thought about the convergence between what Argo will be offering and I guess Ford in terms of business model?

Farley’s response: “Well, that’s a good question. I think Argo has proven to be very adaptive business, not just the technology. My personal opinion is that I think they deserve the opportunity to be a one-stop shop company and that they will take on more of the go-to-market responsibilities for our AV effort.”

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome to Policy Corner. It’s a (relatively) short one this week folks. As a reminder, if there’s any policy or regulatory news (or tips!) that you think merits inclusion in the Corner, send me an email at aria.techcrunch@gmail.com.

Autonomous vehicle developers Nuro and Cruise, along with three other entities, have formed a new coalition to support a California bill that would require AVs to be zero emission by 2030. TechCrunch’s Rebecca Bellan was the first to cover the bill back in March. Notably absent from this coalition are Argo AI, which has Ford and VW has backers and customers, as well several other legacy automakers. John Davis, chief engineer at Ford Autonomous Vehicles, told Bellan back in March that the computing demands of an AV platform means that it may make more sense to transition first to a hybrid model before going full EV.

For Cruise’s part, it makes sense that they’d want to ratchet up their support of the bill, especially after news broke that earlier this week they’d taken out a $5 billion line of credit to ramp up production of their electric Cruise Origin AV.


EV proponents are fired up about the possibility of taxing EVs as one way to fund the massive infrastructure investments that are currently being debated in Washington. The proposal is being mulled by legislators as they continue to negotiate the infrastructure package. Joe Britton, the Executive Director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association, called the tax proposal “the brainchild of those who want to unfairly punish EV drivers and hinder clean vehicle deployment.”

It seems that an EV tax could be the sacrificial lamb that some legislators are looking for, but it is important to note — as ZETA does — that battery electric vehicles are still only around 1% of the cars on the road.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable reads and other tidbits

the station electric vehicles1

Here are a few more final items to wrap up The Station.

Autonomous vehicles

Pony.ai, the robotaxi startup that operates in China and the United States, has started testing driverless vehicles on public roads in California ahead of plans to launch a commercial service there in 2022. The company said the driverless vehicle testing, which means the autonomous vehicles operate without human safety drivers behind the wheel, is happening daily on public roads in Fremont and Milpitas, California. Pony.ai is also testing its driverless vehicles in Guangzhou, China. Pony.ai said it also plans to resume a rideshare service to the public in Irvine this summer using AVs with a human safety driver. Its goal is to roll out the fully driverless service to the public in 2022.

EVs and hydrogen

Canoo, the electric vehicle startup that recently became a publicly traded company through a merger with a SPAC, made a number of announcements during its investor day event. First on the list was news that the company plans to build a factory in Oklahoma that will employ up to 2,000 workers. The factory will be located on a 400-acre site in the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma about 45 minutes from Tulsa. The facility, which the company describes as a “mega microfactory” will include a paint shop, body shop and general assembly plant and is expected to open in 2023.

Canoo also laid out its plans for automated driving, which I haven’t heard much about until now. The details were thin, but Canoo is planning to have its vehicles equipped with “Level 2” advanced driver assistance system, which means two primary functions — like adaptive cruise and lane keeping — are automated and still have a human driver in the loop at all times. From there, it seems the company is taking the Tesla approach and believes it can reach Level 4 autonomy through software improvements. To be clearm, Tesla is nowhere near Level 4 autonomy, which means the vehicle ccan handle all driving without the driver in the loop in certain geographic areas or conditiions. Here is the Canoo CTO’s comments about this.

We’ve got an ADAS system ready for launch at Level 2, with all of the basic features, but we’ve got an OTA system — over the air upgradability — so as we continue to refine and mature and validate additional features in ADAS, we’re going to be able to upgrade over time and with our ADAS compute platform, along with the sensor suite we believe will ultimately get us to around Level 4.

Finally, the company also detailed some of the features that may be on its app, including a one-stop shop functionality that customers could use for their Canoo vehicles — and all their other cars, as well. This unusual approach to its branded vehicle app could potentially pay off big-time for Canoo in terms of user data and revenue via sales on services like tire replacements and insurance.

Lordstown Motors is digging itself deeper into a hole it seems. The company’s CEO and CFO resigned following a less than stellar first quarter results in May, including news that production volumes would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — should the company not identify more funding. But wait. What is this?

The following day, hope was restored when interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt made a series of statements  at an Automotive Press Association event that drove up shares in the company, including that it has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. Ah but hold tight because the next day Lordstown issued a regulatory filing that reversed those claims.

It appears those “binding orders” were more like agreements to maybe lease or buy.

Jaguar Land Rover is developing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle based on the new Defender SUV, and plans to begin testing the prototype next year. The prototype program, known as Project Zeus, is part of JLR’s larger aim to only produce zero-tailpipe emissions vehicles by 2036. JLR has also made a commitment to have zero carbon emissions across its supply chain, products and operations by 2039. The automaker has also tapped AVL, Delta Motorsport, Marelli Automotive Systems and the U.K. Battery Industrialization Center to help develop the prototype.

Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup, is expanding into parcel logistics through a partnership with FedEx. The multiyear, multiphased strategic partnership aims to test and ultimately deploy Nuro’s next-generation autonomous delivery vehicle within FedEx operations. This bot will follow Nuro’s more recent R2 bot. The deal with FedEx marks its first foray into parcels logistics. The pilot program has already started in Houston. This multiyear commitment will allow Nuro to bring its technology to more people in new ways, and eventually reach large-scale deployment, according to Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships.

Polestar, Volvo Car Group’s standalone electric performance brand, will manufacture its first all-electric SUV in the United States. The automaker said the Polestar 3 will be assembled at a plant shared with Volvo Cars at a factory in Ridgeville, South Carolina. The Polestar 3 follows the all-electric Polestar 2 sedan and the hybrid grand tourer Polestar 1. Production of Polestar 3 is expected to begin globally in 2022.

In-car tech

Amazon Web Services entered into an agreement with Ferrari to become their official cloud provider, a deal that aims to help the luxury automaker’s Scuderia Ferrari Formula One racing team launch a digital fan engagement platform via its mobile app.

Android Auto has some new updates including personalizing the launcher screen directly from a user’s smartphone and manually setting dark mode. Browsing content is also supposed to be easier with new tabs in media apps, a “back to top” option and an A to Z button in the scroll bar.  New app experiences have also been added to help with EV charging, parking and navigation apps are now available to use in Android Auto. Users will also be able to read and send new messages directly from apps like WhatsApp or Messages — now available globally. These Android Auto features are available on phones running Android 6.0 or above, and when connected to your compatible car.

Other transportation stuff

Financial Times digs into the sticky issue of Chinese surveillance technology that is used in ‘smart cities’ all over the world.

GM upped the amount it says it will spend on electric and autonomous vehicle investments to $35 billion through 2025 — an $8 billion increase from its previous plan announced in November 2020.

Lux Research released a study showing that in 2020 electric vehicles sales, meaning battery and plug-ins, increased 37% compared to 2019. The sales growth was led by 140% growth in Europe as the BEV market took off in several countries. The report noted that while Tesla remains the most popular BEV maker, but its choice of cells from LG Energy Solution in China means Panasonic lost the market share crown it had held since 2013.

Redwood Materials, the battery recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has purchased 100 acres of land near the Gigafactory that Panasonic operates with Tesla in Sparks, Nevada as part of an expansion plan that aligns with the Biden Administration’s drive to increase adoption of electric vehicles and boost domestic battery recycling and supply chain efforts. The company said its existing 150,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, Nevada will also nearly triple in size. Redwood is adding another 400,000 square feet onto the Carson City recycling facility, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

#amazon, #argo-ai, #automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #canoo, #cruise, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gm, #lordstown-motors, #nuro, #tesla, #transportation, #vw, #waymo

Ford acquires Electriphi as it prepares to woo EV fleet customers

Ford has two electric vehicles in the pipeline —  the E-Transit cargo van and F-150 Lighting Pro —aimed at commercial customers. Now, the automaker is rounding out its future EV commercial business with the acquisition of battery management and fleet monitoring software startup Electriphi.

Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. Ford is betting that the software developed by the three-year-old San Francisco startup will help it capture more than $1 billion in revenue just from charging by 2030. Ford Pro has financial ambitions beyond charging. The business unit said it expects to generate $45 billion in revenue from hardware and adjacent and new services by 2025 — up from $27 billion in 2019.

Electriphi, along with its 30-person team, will be folded into the newly minted Ford Pro business unit, which is focused on providing services to commercial customers of its electric Transit van and F-150 Lightning Pro pickup truck. Ford will start shipping E-Transit to customers later this year. The F-150 Lightning Pro, a commercial variant of the all-electric Lightning pickup truck, is expected to come to market in spring 2022.

“As commercial customers add electric vehicles to their fleets, they want depot charging options to make sure they’re powered up and ready to go to work every day,” said Ford Pro CEO Ted Cannis. “With Electriphi’s existing advanced technology IP in the Ford Pro electric vehicles and services portfolio, we will enhance the experience for commercial customers and be a single-source solution for fleet-depot charging.”

Electriphi launched in 2018 when it became obvious that upcoming state and federal mandates would drive heavy duty vehicles and mid-sized commercial fleets towards electrification, co-founder and CEO Muffi Ghadiali told TechCrunch in a recent interview. The company has focused on segments deploying commercial electric vehicles in the U.S. and internationally, a list that includes school buses and transit buses.

“If you just think about what’s going to happen in the next 10 years — it’s a massive transformation in mobility for energy and software,”  Ghadiali said. “The stakes are incredibly high and time is running out.” He noted fleet operators are nervous about that upcoming mandates that will require moving to zero-emissions vehicles by the end of the decade. “To turn over your entire fleet in 10 years, you have to start now; they’re going, ‘I have to make sure that my fleet operations don’t skip a heartbeat, while this transition is happening.’”

Ford first approached Electriphi in early 2021. The startup had raised just $4.2 million at a valuation of about $11 million prior to the deal with autoomaker.

While Ford’s focus is building out the software for its E-Transit and Lightning Pro, it is possible that it will also continue to serve Electriphi’s customer base.

“Interestingly, as it turns out, the underlying Ford platform is used across many different vehicle types as well as school buses,” Ghadiali said. “So it’s hard to say which segments we won’t still be in because they are you know they are very relevant to what we do. Of course, our focus will be the large volume that the Ford is going to ship in the next year.”

#automotive, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #electriphi, #ford, #tc, #transportation

Canoo to build its first electric vehicle factory in Oklahoma

Canoo, the electric vehicle startup that recently became a publicly traded company through a merger with a SPAC, plans to build a factory in Oklahoma that will employ up to 2,000 workers, newly appointed CEO Tony Aquila said Thursday during the company’s investor day presentation.

The factory will be located on a 400-acre site in the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma about 45 minutes from Tulsa. The facility, which the company describes as a “mega microfactory” will include a paint, body shop and general assembly plant and is expected to open in 2023. The site is near a number of manufacturing and logistics businesses, Aquila noted.

“It’s a hub that we think is going to grow like crazy,” Aquila said. “In addition to that, it puts you dead center for logistics and movement across North America, so you can get anywhere, same day and back is pretty important.”

Canoo, which has said it will deliver its first EV in the fourth quarter of 2022, also announced it is partnering with Netherlands-based contract manufacturer VDL Nedcar to handle initial production while the factory is being built.

Canoo’s announcement comes nearly a year after Oklahoma lost its bid to convince Tesla to build its next factory in the state. Tesla ultimately picked a site near Austin for the factory, which it has said will produce the Cybertruck, the Tesla Semi and the Model Y and Model 3 for sales to customers on the East Coast.

“We’re super pumped — we think we are the flavor of the month and we are the right place for manufacturing,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said, noting that the state has the lowest electricity costs in the entire country. Those lower rates have helped attract companies like Google, which operates a data center in Pryor.

Canoo’s investor day featured a variety of engineers, designers and executives all of whom focused on certain aspects of the company’s vision. Canoo is focused on products for consumers and commercial customers. All of Canoo’s EVs will share the same skateboard and use different cabins or “top hats” that can be paired on top to create unique vehicles. The company has unveiled several vehicles, including an electric microbus, a pickup and one designed for business-to-business applications.

It was also the first public event with Aquila steering the company that has had a bumpy ride in the past year.

Canoo started as Evelozcity in 2017, founded by former Faraday Future executives Stefan Krause and Ulrich Kranz. The company rebranded as Canoo in spring 2019 and debuted its first vehicle several months later. The unique-looking vehicle and Canoo’s initial plan to offer it only as a subscription helped the company gain the attention of investors and the media. Canoo even landed a partnership with Hyundai to co-develop EVs, but that deal fell apart earlier this year after the company changed its business model and decided to not offer engineering services to other automakers, according to comments made in March by Aquila.

Canoo also lost its cofounders, first Krause, and more recently Kranz. And in May, the company disclosed that is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The investigation is broad and covers the special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp.’s initial public offering and merger with Canoo, the company’s operations, business model, revenues, revenue strategy, customer agreements, earnings and other related topics, along with the recent departures of certain of the company’s officers, according to a quarterly earnings report posted May 17.

 

#canoo, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #tc, #tony-aquila, #transportation

Lordstown Motors reverses claims about “binding orders” for electric pickup truck

Lordstown Motors does not have binding orders from customers for its electric Endurance pickup truck — a reversal from claims made earlier this week by company executives in an effort to restore confidence in the troubled company, according to a regulatory filing released Thursday.

Lordstown Motors interim CEO Angela Strand and President Rich Schmidt made a series of statements Tuesday at an Automotive Press Association event that drove up shares in the company, including that it has enough “binding orders” from customers to fund limited production of its electric pickup truck through May 2022. Those comments came just a day after an executive shakeup that included the resignation of the company’s CEO and CFO.

It appears those “binding orders” were more like agreements to maybe lease or buy, according to a document Lordstown filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing has caused shares of Lordstown to fall more than 4%.

The document reads:

To clarify recent remarks by company executives at the Automotive Press Association online media event on June 15, although these vehicle purchase agreements provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance, these agreements do not represent binding purchase orders or other firm purchase commitments. As previously disclosed in our Form 10-K/A for the year ended December 31, 2020, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 8, 2021, to date, we have engaged in limited marketing activities and we have no binding purchase orders or commitments from customers.

Lordstown notes in the SEC filing that an important aspect of its sales and marketing strategy involves pursuing relationships with specialty upfitting and fleet management companies. For instance, in March 2021 Lordstown announced an agreement with ARI, a fleet management affiliate of Holman Enterprises. Under the agreement, ARI “would use reasonable efforts to facilitate orders from its leasing clients for the Endurance over a three-year time period on the terms set forth in the agreement.”

Lordstown has also entered into vehicle purchase agreements with additional specialty upfitting and fleet management companies as a component of that strategy, the company explained. This might sound like a binding order, but it’s not,  as the following language in the SEC doc makes more clear.

“These vehicle purchase agreements generally include a projected buyer order schedule over the 3- to 5-year life of the agreement, and may be terminated by either party at will on 30 days’ notice,” the filing from Lordstown reads. “They do not commit the counterparties to purchase vehicles, but we believe that they provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance.”

The reversal from Lordstown is just the latest in a string of issues at the newly public company. Lordstown Motors is an offshoot of the now former CEO Steve Burns’ other company, Workhorse Group, a battery-electric transportation technology company that is also publicly traded. Workhorse holds a 10% stake in Lordstown Motors. Lordstown Motors went public after merging with special-purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings Corp.

In March, Hindenburg Research, the short-seller firm whose report on Nikola Motor led to an SEC investigation and the resignation of its founder, said it had taken a short position on Lordstown Motors, causing shares to plummet 21%. Hindenburg said at the time that its short position was based on a company has “no revenue and no sellable product, which we believe has misled investors on both its demand and production capabilities.”

Hindenburg disputes that the company has booked 100,000 pre-orders for its electric pickup truck, a stat shared by Lordstown Motors in January. The short seller says that “extensive research reveals that the company’s orders appear largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy.” The firm goes further and alleges that Lordstown founder and CEO Steve Burns paid consultants for every truck pre-order as early as 2016 while he was leading Workhorse.

Two months later, Lordstown reported in its first-quarter earnings that production volumes of the Endurance would likely be half — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000 — due to a lack of funding. The statements made by Lordstown execs Tuesday appeared to be an attempt, which backfired, to assuage investors.

 

#automotive, #electric-pickup-truck, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #lordstown-motors, #spac, #transportation

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

ChargerHelp co-founder, CEO Kameale C. Terry is heading to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

Thousands of electric vehicle charging stations will be built around the country over the next decade. ChargerHelp!, founded in January 2020 by Kameale C. Terry and Evette Ellis, wants to make sure they stay up and running.

The idea for the on-demand repair app for EV charging stations came to Terry when she was working at EV Connect, where she held a number of roles including director of programs and head of customer experience. She noticed long wait times to fix non-electrical issues at charging stations due to the industry practice to use electrical contractors.

“When the stations went down we really couldn’t get anyone on site because most of the issues were communication issues, vandalism, firmware updates or swapping out a part — all things that were not electrical,” Terry said in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year.

After Terry quit her job to start ChargerHelp!, she joined the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where she developed a first-of-its-kind EV Network Technician Training Curriculum. Shortly after, Terry and Ellis were accepted into Elemental Excelerator’s startup incubator and have landed contracts with major EV charging network providers like EV Connect and SparkCharge.

The company uses a workforce-development approach to hiring, meaning that they only hire in cohorts. Workers receive full training, earn two safety licenses, are guaranteed a wage of $30 an hour and receive shares in the startup, Terry said.

We’re excited to announce that Kameale Terry will be joining us at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event that is scheduled June 9. We’ll be covering a lot of ground with Terry, from how she developed her EV repair curriculum to what she sees in the company’s future.

Each year TechCrunch brings together founders, investors, CEOs and engineers who are working on all things transportation and mobility. If it moves people and packages from Point A to Point B, we cover it. This year’s agenda is filled with leaders in the mobility space who are shaping the future of transportation, from EV charging to autonomous vehicles to urban air taxis.

Among the growing list of speakers are Rimac Automobili founder Mate RimacRevel Transit CEO Frank Reig, community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler and Remix/Via co-founder and CEO Tiffany Chu, who will come together to discuss how (and if) urban mobility can increase equity while still remaining a viable business.

Other guests include Motional’s President and CEO Karl Iagnemma, Aurora co-founder and CEO Chris Urmson, GM‘s VP of Global Innovation Pam FletcherScale AI CEO Alexandr WangJoby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby), investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation FundQuin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct CapitalZoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson.

We also recently announced a panel dedicated to China’s robotaxi industry, featuring three female leaders from Chinese AV startups: AutoX’s COO Jewel LiHuan Sun, general manager of Momenta Europe with Momenta, and WeRide’s VP of Finance Jennifer Li.

Don’t wait to book your tickets to TC Sessions: Mobility as prices go up at the door. Grab your passes right now and hear from today’s biggest mobility leaders.

#alexandr-wang, #aurora, #automation, #automotive, #autotech-ventures, #autox, #av, #ceo, #chargerhelp, #charging-station, #china, #chris-urmson, #clara-brenner, #construct-capital, #coo, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicle-charging-station, #electric-vehicles, #ev-connect, #events, #frank-reig, #jesse-levinson, #jewel-li, #joby, #joby-aviation, #joeben-bevirt, #karl-iagnemma, #linkedin, #mate-rimac, #momenta, #motional, #pam-fletcher, #quin-garcia, #rachel-holt, #reid-hoffman, #revel-transit, #rimac-automobili, #robotaxi, #robotics, #scale-ai, #science-and-technology, #sparkcharge, #startups, #tamika-l-butler, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2021, #technology, #tiffany-chu, #transport, #transportation, #urban-innovation-fund, #weride, #zoox