Formula E’s most successful racer shares his ideas on racing technology

A black formula e car is followed by a red formula e car

Enlarge / Lucas Di Grassi leads Jake Dennis in the 2022 London ePrix. (credit: Sam Bloxham/Formula E)

Formula E will close out its season this weekend with its first visit to Seoul, South Korea. It’s not just the end of season eight and the last race for the Gen2 electric race cars but also marks the series’ 100th race. The sport has come a long way since its first ePrix in Beijing in 2014, with more powerful cars, bigger batteries, and an ability to put on an exciting race at Monaco, something that Formula 1 hasn’t been able to say for several decades.

Lucas di Grassi was the winner of that first ePrix and has raced in every ePrix since. He’s still visiting victory lane, most recently in last Sunday’s London ePrix, and this weekend may score his 1,000th career point in the series. With a background in Formula 1 and then Audi’s mighty R18 e-tron Le Mans program, di Grassi knows his way around a race car. So he’s usually a good person to talk to about the future direction of the sport.

Next season the sport gets a new car, one that’s much more powerful—and lighter, too. But it’s not quite as bold, technology-wise, as the concept di Grassi lobbied for. Although that car has yet to even race in anger, the various minds that contribute to Formula E’s R&D road map are already thinking about Gen4. Since we had the chance to speak with the driver ahead of this week’s Seoul ePrix, I wanted to know his thoughts on where the sport should go next. As I hoped, he had plenty of them.

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#cars, #electric-racing, #electric-vehicles, #fia, #formula-e, #lucas-di-grassi, #racing

Volkswagen starts building the first of six battery gigafactories

A woman wearing a hardhat and anti-shock gloves dismantles a battery pack

Enlarge / A VW worker dismantles an electric vehicle battery pack for recycling. (credit: Volkswagen)

Volkswagen Group announced on Thursday that it is consolidating its battery development and production in a new project called Mission SalzGiga. The name refers to Salzgitter in Germany, where VW has built more than 63 million internal combustion engines—it has now broken ground on a massive new battery factory at the site, the first of six planned for Europe. Each plant should be able to accommodate an annual production capacity of 40 GWh, sufficient to power 500,000 electric vehicles.

To that end, the company has set up a new Salzgitter-based business unit called PowerCo that will cover all of the automaker’s global battery activities. VW says it will require more than $20.4 billion (20 billion euros) in investment between now and 2030 but with an equal potential in revenue, plus the addition of 20,000 new jobs.

“In building our first in-house cell factory, we are consistently implementing our technology roadmap,” said Thomas Schmall, VW board member in charge of technology. “PowerCo will become a global battery player. The company’s major strength will be vertical integration from raw materials and the cell right through to recycling. In future, we will handle all the relevant activities in-house and will gain a strategic competitive advantage in the race to take the lead in e-mobility.”

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#cars, #electric-vehicle-battery, #electric-vehicles, #gigafactory, #volkswagen

The rise and precarious reign of China’s battery king

Zeng Yuqun, chairman of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL), poses for a photograph in Ningde, Fujian province, China, on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

Enlarge / Zeng Yuqun, chairman of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL), poses for a photograph in Ningde, Fujian province, China, on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

The headquarters of battery giant CATL tower over the coastal Chinese city of Ningde. To the untrained eye, the building resembles a huge slide rising out of the urban sprawl. It is, in fact, a giant monument to the company’s raison d’être: the lithium-ion battery pack.

You may have never heard of CATL, but you’ve definitely heard of the brands that rely on its batteries. The company supplies more than 30 percent of the world’s EV batteries and counts Tesla, Kia, and BMW among its clients. Its founder and chairman, 54-year-old Zeng Yuqun, also known as Robin Zeng, has rapidly emerged as the industry’s kingmaker. Insiders describe Zeng as savvy, direct, and even abrasive. Under his leadership, CATL’s valuation has ballooned to 1.2 trillion Chinese yuan ($179 billion), more than General Motors and Ford combined. Part of that fortune is built on owning stakes in mining projects in China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indonesia, giving CATL a tighter grip on an already strained global battery supply chain.

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#batteries, #battery-electric-vehicles, #cars, #china, #electric-vehicles, #science

The driving enthusiast’s dilemma with electric cars

The driving enthusiast’s dilemma with electric cars

Enlarge (credit: Andrew Hedrick/Porsche)

As I’m fond of saying, electric motors just make cars better. Regular readers will notice that most of our automotive coverage is about electrified cars, but the other kind still represents more than 95 percent of all new cars sold in the US, so we have reason to drive a few of those from time to time as well. And when we do, it’s often an exercise in frustration—even a performance car like a Porsche 911 Turbo can’t match the immediate slug of torque from an electric motor doing its thing.

And that’s good. Electric cars need to be the future of personal transportation if we want to avert the worst ravages of climate change, albeit only alongside everyone walking, cycling, and taking public transport more. (We could do with a comprehensive redesign of our built environment to make all that safer, too, but I realize I’m veering dangerously into a post-scarcity utopia there, whereas it currently looks like we’re in the Mirror Universe.)

But the uncomfortable truth for the EV-loving driving enthusiast is that while EVs make perfect sense for getting from A to B—absent the occasional edge-case like an emergency cross-country trombone delivery—I’m not sure they’re quite there yet when it comes to that last bit of fun.

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#bmw-i4-m50, #bmw-m3-competition, #cars, #chevrolet-bolt-ev, #driving-fun, #electric-vehicles, #porsche-taycan, #volkswagen-id-4

Cadillac’s electric flagship will be hand-built, use extensive 3D printing

The taillight of the Celestiq show car is one of the few images Cadillac has released of its next flagship.

Enlarge / The taillight of the Celestiq show car is one of the few images Cadillac has released of its next flagship. (credit: Cadillac)

Cadillac’s transformation into an all-electric vehicle brand is about to get underway. The first new Cadillac EV will be the Lyriq, which has just entered production; Ars is driving it next week, and we’ll be able to tell you about it on June 28.

With a starting price of $59,990, the Lyriq looks reasonably priced to enter the competitive luxury EV SUV space. But the Cadillac EV that follows will be a much more exclusive machine. It’s called the Celestiq, and so far, details are scarce ahead of a formal reveal of the show car in late July. Cadillac has said that “from first approach, the striking silhouette of the Celestiq show car leaves a lasting impression, challenging the ultra-luxury space with the spirit of futurism and the avant-garde.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Cadillac revealed that it will hand-build the Celestiq and will spend $81 million to set up production at General Motors’ Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

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#3d-printing, #cadillac, #cadillac-celestiq, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #ultium

The Hummer EV is an electric truck for people who think EVs are stupid

A white Hummer EV

Enlarge / The 2023 Hummer EV has gone from idea to production in just two years. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

PLEASANT VALLEY, Ariz.—The headline figures verge on the ridiculous: More than a megawatt of power. A curb weight so heavy that you’d need a special license to drive it in some countries. A lithium-ion battery that’s almost twice the capacity of anything else on the road. A zero to 60 mph time of just three seconds. And despite the worst efficiency of any electric vehicle we’ve driven to date, it still has more than 300 miles of range.

If all that sounds like overkill to you, or if you already think EVs are a good idea, you are not the target audience for GMC’s new Hummer EV.

Instead, GMC is positioning the Hummer EV as “an all-electric super truck with zero emissions and zero limits” (except perhaps a road’s weight rating). It’s meant to convert the electro-curious over from gasoline or diesel to electrons. So think “off-road re-creation Rivian R1T rival” rather than “blue-collar Ford F-150 Lightning fighter.”

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #features, #general-motors, #gmc, #hummer-ev, #ultium

Ford F-150 Lightning beats targets, goes 320 miles in EPA testing

A Ford F-150 Lightning drives off road with a dirt bike in the back.

Enlarge / The F-150 Lightning will be offered as a SuperCrew cab with a 5.5-foot bed. (credit: Ford)

When Ford announced the F-150 Lightning, the company’s first electric pickup truck, the automaker pledged that the Lightning’s $40,000 base model would travel 230 miles on a full charge—and that the extended-range model would reach 300 miles. Not too shabby for a 6,500 lb truck with a not-insignificant drag area.

It turns out that at least one of those numbers was conservative. Ford said today that the base Lightning model did reach its predicted 230 miles under EPA testing and that the extended-range model sailed past estimates to reach 320 miles.

“We are laser focused on continually improving our energy consumption efficiency for Lightning, and the team is really happy to deliver these results for our customers,” said Linda Zhang, the trucks’s chief program engineer.

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#batteries, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #ev-range, #f-150-lightning

Slinky, stylish Audi A6 Avant e-tron previews future EV station wagon

Audi A6 Avant e-tron concept front

Enlarge / Audi designers closed off the grille for better aerodynamics without eliminating the company’s trademark front end. Owners can customize the daytime running lights using the matrix LED headlights. (credit: Audi)

Today, Audi answered a question that many enthusiasts have been asking for years—when will they be releasing an electric station wagon? The company has a long history producing lusty “Avant” models, and the brand’s new electric endeavors made such a car seem inevitable. But Audi has been mum on the topic—until now.

Today, Audi unveiled the A6 Avant e-tron. While this vehicle may be called a concept, it strongly hints at the production version due in 2024. Audi designers said the final wagon won’t deviate much from what you see here. And from our perspective, that’s not a bad thing.

“I can promise you that a lot of what you see now will be available on the road,” said Wolf Seebers, who led the car’s exterior design.

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#audi-a6-e-tron, #cars, #concept-car, #electric-vehicles, #station-wagon

Carbon-fiber EV wheels will be lighter, quieter, and more efficient

Wheels at Carbon Revolution's factory

Enlarge / These carbon-fiber wheels have completed the molding process. (credit: Carbon Revolution)

You might have noticed that car wheels have gotten pretty large over the last few years. Designers love putting big wheels on cars, particularly big trucks and SUVs, because they help make big vehicles look smaller. Expect the trend to stick around as electric vehicles proliferate—it’s particularly effective at helping hide the extra height of the slab of lithium-ion cells between the axles.

The trouble is, big wheels might look good, but that aesthetic comes with a cost. A larger wheel is heavier, and it’s the very worst place to add pounds if you’re concerned about handling, since it is unsprung mass. This is why some wheels are made out of aluminum alloy instead of pressed steel, but even aluminum wheels weigh a lot if they’re 22 inches in diameter—or bigger. Enter Carbon Revolution and its carbon-fiber wheels, stage left.

Originally a plaything of the aerospace industry, the automotive industry first cottoned on to using carbon-fiber composites via racing. Extra weight is the enemy of a good lap time, and F1 designer John Barnard realized that he could build cars that were at least as strong as ones made from steel and aluminum, but far lighter. Initial safety fears from naysayers proved unfounded, and for several decades it has been the material of choice for prototype and single-seat race cars.

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#carbon-fiber, #carbon-revolution, #carbon-wheels, #cars, #electric-vehicles

Rivian hit with shareholder lawsuit over surprise EV truck price hike

A person carries an air hose to a truck tire

Enlarge / That air compressor can output up to 150 psi. (credit: Rivian)

Rivian, the electric vehicle manufacturer, is being sued (PDF) by a shareholder who alleges that the company’s surprise 20 percent price hike tarnished Rivian’s reputation and violated US securities laws.

The company made “untrue statements” in its IPO about the pricing of its R1T truck and R1S SUV, the lawsuit says. “Unbeknownst to investors,” the suit says, Rivian’s filings for the IPO contained statements that were “materially inaccurate, misleading, and/or incomplete because they failed to disclose, among other things, that the R1T and R1S were underpriced to such a degree that Rivian would have to raise prices shortly after the IPO.”

The lawsuit alleges that the surprise price increases would “tarnish Rivian’s reputation as a trustworthy and transparent company” and risk the cancellation of a “significant number” of the nearly 56,000 preorders the company had accumulated.

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#electric-vehicles, #ipo, #policy, #rivian, #sec

Ford reorg prioritizes EVs, keeps fossil fuel vehicles as “engines of cash”

Promotional image of electric crossover vehicle.

Enlarge / Ford Mustang Mach-E GT. (credit: Ford)

Ford announced today that it will be splitting its electric and fossil fuel vehicle business into two separate divisions. The announcement has investors rallying to the stock but leaves plenty of questions unanswered about the future of the 118-year-old company.

The reorganization caps weeks of speculation that the automaker might split into two separate companies. Ford has said that its future lies in electric vehicles, but for now, the vast majority of its profits come from fossil fuel cars and trucks.

“We are going all in, creating separate but complementary businesses that give us start-up speed and unbridled innovation in Ford Model e together with Ford Blue’s industrial know-how, volume and iconic brands like Bronco, that start-ups can only dream about,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #evs, #ford, #internal-combustion-engines, #strategy

EV coach drives from California to Seattle and back using public chargers

The Van Hool CX45E that completed the 1,700-mile round trip.

Enlarge / The Van Hool CX45E that completed the 1,700-mile round trip. (credit: ABC Companies)

An electric coach just completed a 1,700-mile (2,743-km) trip from Newark, California, to Seattle and back. The journey was a demonstration of battery-electric transport and was organized by the coach operator MTRWestern and ABC Companies, the US importer for Van Hool coaches.

What makes this trip noteworthy—some might even say amazing—is that it relied on public fast chargers. The coach averaged 280 miles (450 km) between charging stops, with some stretches of over 300 miles (482 km).

The coach in question is a Van Hool CX45E and uses a Proterra battery pack similar to the one that powered a Proterra bus that completed a 1,101-mile (1,772-km) journey on a single charge in 2017. Van Hool picked Proterra as its battery supplier later that year.

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #motorcoach, #proterra, #van-hool

US Army turns to microgrids, EVs to hit net zero by 2050

A tank roars across a desert.

Enlarge / A US Bradley Fighting Vehicle drives during a joint military exercise between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group, in the countryside of Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria on December 7, 2021. The US Army is currently testing a version of the Bradley with a hybrid-electric drivetrain. (credit: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP)

The US Army released its climate change strategy this week, and it’s a lengthy document that shows how the largest and oldest branch of the military will not only prepare for climate change but will also zero out emissions from most of its operations and activities.

“We have a unique opportunity to improve our defense capabilities and become a more efficient force, while securing a better future,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in an introduction to the report. “The Army is on track to build on the progress we’ve achieved to date and reach every aspect of the Army enterprise.”

The Army says that the goal isn’t just to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions—though that’s a key outcome—but also to make the force more resilient by “adapting infrastructure and natural environments to climate change risks.”

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#climate-change, #electric-vehicles, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #microgrids, #net-zero, #policy, #us-army

Four fast chargers every 50 miles—US unveils EV infrastructure plan

An Electrify America charging station.

Enlarge / An Electrify America charging station. (credit: Electrify America)

About five years from now, a common complaint about electric vehicles—range anxiety—will be a thing of the past across much of the US.

Starting this year, the federal government will begin doling out $5 billion to states over five years to build a nationwide network of fast chargers. The plan initially focuses on the Interstate Highway System, directing states to build one charging station every 50 miles. Those stations must be capable of charging at least four EVs simultaneously at 150 kW.

Once states have completed the Interstate charging network, they’ll be able to apply for grants to fill in gaps elsewhere. The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, a new agency formed to help the Transportation and Energy Departments administer the program, will allow case-by-case exceptions to the 50-mile requirement if, for example, no grid connection is available nearby.

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#carbon-emissions, #cars, #climate-change, #electric-vehicles, #electrification, #ev-charging

More EVs, hybrids likely to follow revised EPA fuel economy standards

More EVs, hybrids likely to follow revised EPA fuel economy standards

Enlarge (credit: Luke Sharrett via Getty Images)

The Environmental Protection Agency today announced more stringent fuel economy standards that will require passenger vehicles to travel 70 percent farther on a gallon of gasoline.

The Biden administration announced earlier this year that it would be revising the Trump-era standards, which sought to increase fleet average fuel economy 1.5 percent per year through 2026. The new EPA standards will require automakers to improve fuel economy by 5–10 percent annually across their fleets. Five years from now, fuel economy on new vehicle Monroney stickers will average about 40 mpg combined, up from about 25 mpg today.

The move will save car and truck owners more than $1,000 over the lifetime of their vehicles, the agency said, and it will prevent 3.1 billion tons of carbon pollution through 2050. Transportation represents about a third of US carbon emissions. The rule will take effect in 60 days and will apply to model years 2023–2026. 

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#cars, #corporate-average-fuel-efficiency, #electric-vehicles, #epa, #fuel-economy, #hybrid-car

Power companies band together for coast-to-coast EV fast-charger network

Power companies band together for coast-to-coast EV fast-charger network

Enlarge (credit: Chevrolet)

It took an act of Congress and $7.5 billion in federal funding, but more than 50 of the nation’s power companies are ready to build a coast-to-coast fast-charging network for electric vehicles.

The proposal so far is light on details. Members of the National Electric Highway Coalition say they serve nearly 120 million customers across 47 states and the District of Columbia. The coalition hasn’t said how many fast chargers it will be installing, but the companies said they would focus first on gaps in existing fast-charging networks along interstate highways.

The group is “committed to investing in and providing the charging infrastructure necessary to facilitate electric vehicle growth and to helping alleviate any remaining customer range anxiety,” said Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, which helped build the coalition.

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#cars, #dc-fast-charging, #electric-utilities, #electric-vehicles, #power-companies

Hyundai and Kia preview EVs due in 2024 with compelling three-row concepts

Kia EV9 concept

Enlarge / The Kia EV9 concept uses pixelated headlights that Hyundai and Kia designers have grown fond of in recent years. (credit: Kia)

Amidst the slew of new electric vehicles that have been introduced in the last few years, one thing has been largely missing: a third row. SUVs and crossovers with room for more than five passengers are wildly popular, but if you don’t want to burn fossil fuels, your options have been limited.

Hyundai and Kia have plans to change that, though. In advance of the Los Angeles Auto Show, which starts tomorrow, the two companies each unveiled concepts that hint at all-new, three-row electric SUVs bound for the US in 2024. Hyundai teased the Ioniq Seven, the second model in a new electric-only sub-brand it’s launching. Meanwhile, Kia gave us a peek at the EV9, a boxy big brother to the curvy EV6.

Hyundai's Ioniq Seven concept has design cues from the <a href="https://arstechnica.com/cars/2020/03/who-did-the-future-electric-sedan-best-bmw-or-hyundai/">Prophecy concept</a>, particularly in the rake of the windshield.

Hyundai’s Ioniq Seven concept has design cues from the Prophecy concept, particularly in the rake of the windshield. (credit: Hyundai)

In keeping with recent Hyundai and Kia designs, the two vehicles look quite different, despite being based on the same E-GMP platform. Yet they share enough details to feel part of the same family.

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#cars, #concept-cars, #electric-vehicles, #hyundai, #kia, #la-auto-show, #three-row

New firefighting tool delivers water directly to blazing EV batteries

To put out an EV blaze, a firefighter operates the nozzle from a remote control box.

Enlarge / To put out an EV blaze, a firefighter operates the nozzle from a remote control box. (credit: Rosenbauer)

In April, a Tesla Model S crashed in The Woodlands, Texas, after the speeding driver failed to negotiate a turn and jumped the curb. The car then hit a drainage culvert and a raised maintenance hole before being stopped by a tree, according to an investigation report by the National Transportation Safety Board. At that point, the Tesla promptly burst into flames.

Firefighters needed four hours to douse the flames, in part because the battery kept reigniting. When the blaze was finally over, about 30,000 gallons of water had been poured on it—what the department normally uses in a month.

Electric vehicle fires aren’t common, but they’re different enough from fossil-fuel-vehicle fires that firefighters need new approaches. One firm in Europe has developed a shipping container-like box in which a blazing EV can be deposited and blasted with water from all sides. But it requires a dedicated truck, making it a costly addition for a fire department.

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#battery-fire, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #firefighting

Subaru shows off its first electric vehicle, the Solterra SUV

Subaru Corp. Solterra electric sport utility vehicle (SUV) during an unveiling event in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.

Enlarge / Subaru Corp. Solterra electric sport utility vehicle (SUV) during an unveiling event in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (credit: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Thursday morning in Tokyo, Subaru unveiled its first-ever battery-electric vehicle. It’s an electric crossover called the Solterra, and it has been developed in partnership with Toyota alongside that brand’s forthcoming EV, the bZ4x.

At the heart of the Solterra—or more accurately its core—you’ll find a 71.4 kWh lithium-ion traction battery, between the axles and underneath the floor of the passenger compartment. It has been designed in both front- and all-wheel-drive variants, with either a 150 kW (201 hp) AC synchronous motor driving just the front wheels, or a pair of 80 kW (107 hp) motors, one powering each axle, for a total output of 160 kW (214 hp).

Subaru says that the FWD Solterra has a range of 329 miles (530 km) and the AWD Solterra a range of about 285 miles (460 km). However, those range estimates were generated using the WLTP test standard, which does not accurately reflect the less-energy-efficient driving style required for North American roads.

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #subaru, #subaru-solterra, #toyota

Electric conversions are this year’s hot trend at SEMA

Las Vegas is currently hosting its annual visit by SEMA, the aftermarket automotive trade show. Hot rods and custom cars have always been a SEMA thing, but these days there’s no guarantee you’ll find a brawny V8 or even any cylinders under the hood. In the past, we’ve covered show cars from Ford and Chevrolet, but this year the electric custom car is a full-blown trend.

Of course, the big OEMs haven’t ignored SEMA this year. Ford’s still in the first flush of Mustang Mach-E mania, and the Blue Oval brought multiple Mach-Es to the show. One is an aggressive-looking Mach-E GT that’ll be auctioned for charity after hopefully hitting 200 mph (321 km/h) at Bonneville, and another is bright orange with lowered air suspension and an e-bike charging rack at the back.

But the one that really caught my attention is a Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT concept, complete with the iconic white-with-blue-stripe livery. I’m not sure it’s any faster than the Mach-E GT Performance Edition that recently brightened my day, but it does look even better, with graphene-infused carbon-fiber bodywork.

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#cars, #chevrolet, #custom-cars, #electric-gt, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #ford-bronco, #ford-mustang-mach-e, #ford-mustang-mach-e-gt, #hot-rod, #porsche, #sema, #shelby-cobra

On Back to the Future day, Porsche celebrates 1.21 GW charging capacity

A Porsche Taycan and a Back to the Future DeLorean

Enlarge / Everyone loves a good time machine, including Porsche. The company made a short video to celebrate reaching a charging capacity milestone in the US and Europe. (credit: Porsche)

Many of the electric vehicles we’ve been waiting for are finally starting to appear on our roads. But wide adoption of EVs depends on more than just the availability of the cars themselves; we also need good charging infrastructure.

Building new charging stations is not an overnight job, as it’s a project fraught with red tape. But on Back to the Future day, Porsche released a whimsical video to celebrate the fact that, between the Electrify America network and Ionity (its European equivalent), there is now at least 1.21 GW of DC fast charging capacity available for its Taycan electric cars. (And any other EV that can fast-charge via CCS or CHAdeMO chargers, of course.)

The relationship of charging infrastructure to EV adoption seems intuitive, and history confirms it. In the earliest days of motoring, electric cars had a far higher market share than their current 2–3 percent and were vying for dominance with cars powered by internal combustion engines or even steam.

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#cars, #charging-infrastructure, #electric-vehicles, #electrify-america, #ionity, #porsche, #tesla-supercharger

Here’s how Lotus is going to build lightweight electric sports cars

Of all the automakers that are undergoing the transformation from internal combustion to electric propulsion, few have my interest quite like Lotus. Partly that’s because I first became a car nerd after discovering the Lotus Seven. But it’s also because light weight has always been a core Lotus attribute, and while electric vehicles have much to recommend them, “light” they typically are not.

This would be immaterial until relatively recently, because the small British sports car company didn’t have the resources to consider a switch to electric. But in 2017 Lotus was bought by Geely, also the owner of a freshly revitalized Volvo. As is the Geely way, Lotus got some much-needed investment and has been set to work on electrification.

In April of this year Lotus revealed that its plans now include four new platforms, three of which are entirely electric. This week we got a glimpse into the way the company is thinking about EVs, as it released some details about its lightweight elective vehicle architecture (or “Project LEVA” in Lotus-speak). The key is a newly developed rear subframe that’s far lighter than the one in the V6-powered Emira (unveiled in July as the last internal combustion engine-powered Lotus).

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #geely, #lotus-cars, #lotus-elise, #lotus-emira, #lotus-engineering, #lotus-esprit, #sports-cars

Mercedes-Benz prices its flagship EQS electric vehicle below the S Class

The Mercedes-Benz has priced the flagship EQS electric vehicle more than $8,700 below its gas-powered S-Class counterpart, a strategic move by the German automaker aiming to ensure a successful rollout of the luxury EV in North America.

The EQS, which will arrive in U.S. dealerships in fall 2021, will start at $103,360, including the $1,050 destination charge. The federal tax credit will provide another $7,500 off of the sticker price.

Mercedes-Benz will start with two models: the EQS 450+ and the EQS 580 4MATIC, which has a higher base price of $120,160. These two variants will be offered in three trims — the top is appropriately called Pinnacle — pushing that price point as high as 126,360, including the $1,050 destination charge.

Mercedes’s decision to price the EQS below the S Class, which starts at $$112,150 (including destination charge), illustrates the stakes at play here. The S-Class has long been the company’s storied and luxurious flagship sedan. Mercedes, which earlier this year outlined a €40 billion ($47 billion) plan to become an electric-only automaker by the end of the decade, needs to either convert old S Class owners to the EQS or bring in a new slate of buyers.

The 2022 Mercedes-Benz exudes ultra-luxury, as expected. But it’s also loaded with tech, including a 56-inch hyperscreen, monster HEPA air filter and the software that intuitively learns the driver’s wants and needs. There is even a new fragrance called No.6 MOOD Linen and is described as “carried by the green note of a fig and linen.”

Mercedes is betting that the tech, coupled with performance, design and the price will attract buyers. As TechCrunch has noted before, this is a high-stakes game for Mercedes. The German automaker is banking on a successful rollout of the EQS in North America that will erase any memory of its troubled — and now nixed — launch of the EQC crossover in the United States.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #mercedes-benz, #transportation

Audi launches its newest EV, the 2022 Q4 e-tron SUV

Audi has launched the Q4 e-tron, the fifth electric vehicle in its growing portfolio, as part of the German automaker’s plan to bring more than 30 EVs and plug-in hybrids to market by 2025.

The Q4 e-tron is Audi’s entry electric SUV model and the price reflects that. The vehicle, which was first revealed as a concept at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show, has a starting price of $44,995, including the $1,095 destination charge. It’s worth noting that the Q4 electric vehicle is about $1,000 cheaper than the gas-powered 2022 Q5 SUV.

The Q4 e-tron is more like a family of vehicles with three members. There is the Q4 50 e-tron and a Q4 Sportback 50 quattro, a variation that is all-wheel drive and powered by dual asynchronous motors. Both of these vehicles have an estimated EPA range of 241 miles.

Then there’s the Q4 40 e-tron, which is rear-wheel drive and powered by a single asynchronous electric motor. The EPA estimates for the Q4 40 e-tron has not been released.  Here’s a breakdown of some of the basic specs below.

Audi Q4 e-tron

Image Credits: Screenshot/Audi

The new Q4, as TechCrunch noted earlier this year, is packed with tech in its stout-looking package, notably the option to add an AR-enabled windshield.

The Q4 is a larger compact SUV with a short overhang and wheelbase of 9.1 feet. This makes the Q4 look compact from the outside. Inside though, there is combination there’s an interior of 6 feet in length, the kind of space found in a large full-size class SUV. The Q4 40 e-tron and Q4 50 e-tron models come standard with 19′-inch wheels equipped with all-season tires. The Sportback variant of the Q4 50 e-tron quattro receives larger standard 20-inch wheels with all-season tires, according to Audi.

Importantly, the Q4 also shares the same architecture with parent company VW’s modular electric drive toolkit chassis, or MEB platform. This flexible modular system, which was first introduced by VW in 2016, was developed to make it more efficient and cost-effective to produce a variety of EVs.

 

 

#audi, #automotive, #electric-vehicles, #tc, #transportation, #venture-capital

The Station: Gogoro scoots into a SPAC, a Rivian milestone and Tesla prepares to unleash FSD beta software

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 readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

The future of transportation beat was flooded with news this week as per ushe. There are two stories that I want to highlight here. First up, is that the first Rivian R1T electric pickup truck in “Rivian blue” rolled off the assembly line at the company’s factory in Normal, Illinois. The R1T and the upcoming R1S SUV are also now certified to be sold in all 50 states (at least online).

This marks a milestone more than a decade in the making for the automaker and its founder and CEO, RJ Scaringe, who started the company in 2009 as Mainstream Motors before adopting the Rivian name two years later. Rivian has undergone explosive growth in terms of people, backers and partners in the past few years. If the company has a successful IPO, which it confidentially filed for recently, it could grow even faster.

Next up, is Tesla and its “Full Self-Driving” beta software, which is about to become accessible to a lot more owners.

The FSD Beta v10.0.1 software update, which has already been pushed out to a group of select owners, will become more widely available starting September 24. Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a caveat that personal driving metrics captured over a seven-day period via telemetry data will determine whether owners who have paid for its FSD software can access the latest beta version that promises more automated driving functions.

A Reddit post from several months ago provides hints on what data will be used. The poster, who has reversed engineered the Tesla app, found that the company was getting ready to implement insurance directly into the app. There will be a new safety rating page that will track an owner’s vehicle and is linked to their insurance. It’s possible that this is what Musk was referring to when he tweeted “beta button will request permission to assess driving behavior using Tesla insurance calculator. If driving behavior is good for 7 days, beta access will be granted.”

According to the Redditor, the app will track the number of times the ABS is activated, average number of hours driven daily, number of times Autopilot is disabled because alert is ignored, forward collision warnings, amount of time spent at an unsafe following distance and intensity of acceleration and braking.

This release on September 24, which will mean potentially thousands of Tesla owners trying out beta software on public roads, is going to test the will of regulators. Jennifer Homendy, the new head of the National Transportation Safety Board, told the WSJ that Tesla shouldn’t roll out this latest software update until it can address “basic safety issues.” NTSB is not a regulator; it investigates crashes and issues safety recommendations. So while her voice matters and is listened to, the NTSB cannot prevent Tesla from pushing this software update, or any other one, to owners.

Finally, TechCrunch Disrupt is here! The event kicks off Tuesday and I hope to see you all there. There’s even a photo booth (virtual) and I want you to share your photos if you use it.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

Lane detection, pedestrian detection, advanced braking systems. These sound like driver assistance features you might find in a new SUV, sedan or truck. These days, this tech is creeping into electric scooters.

The pressure on operators to build scooters that are robust, safe and combat issues like sidewalk clutter has prompted companies to develop and equip their vehicles with advanced driver assistance features. Operators like Voi, Spin, Superpedestrian, Zipp and Bird have all started to integrate tech that can detect when someone is riding on the sidewalk or parking a scooter where it shouldn’t be. Whether through camera-based computer vision or through really accurate geopositioning software, these scooters not only know exactly where a rider is, but they can also put the brakes on or slow them down if they’re breaking the rules.

The question is, is it necessary? My view is that this wouldn’t be necessary if cities stopped offloading the cost of safety onto operators and instead invested in protected bike lanes.

Check out my ExtraCrunch story that looks deeper into the tech, which I’ve dubbed scooter ADAS.

Bird launches its shared e-bike in San Diego

Bird has an exclusive micromobility contract with San Diego State University. Bird’s bike share operation, which was officially launched in June, will be available to the 34,000 students on campus.

Brooklyn Bridge gets a dedicated bike lane

Bikers these days don’t know how good they’ve got it. I remember when I had to ring my bike bell like a mad woman trying to get pedestrians to part for me as I attempted to ride over the busy Brooklyn Bridge. Now, the iconic bridge has its own dedicated two-way bike lane. This is huge news. HUGE. I only wish I were back home to see it. And the best part is that the lane was taken from cars and given back to the people!

Compact, foldable and made in Japan

A company called Shaero just launched in Tokyo with a docked shared tiny moped that can be folded and stored inside lockers between trips. Forget scooter ADAS — more of this please!

Tax break for e-bikes

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee proposed creating a 15 percent tax credit for e-bike purchases if you earn less than $75,000 per year. This is down from a 30 percent rebate with no income limits in the last version of the bill, which would have been way better, but I guess baby steps?

The latest e-bikes

This week a lot of new e-bikes launched. Here’s a bit of a roundup:

The Crown Cruiser is a retro-futuristic looking e-bike with inbuilt smart technologies like anti-theft tech and a gyro and accelerometer sensor that detects impact. The lightweight frame is made out of carbon fiber, it’s got long-range swappable 36V or 48V batteries with a range of 100 miles or more and its DC hub motor is so powerful the bike can hit top speeds of 31 mph. The Cruiser is currently fundraising on Indiegogo, and has received a £139,000 Sustainable Innovation grant from the UK government.

Daymak has announced the release of their Terra e-bike, part of the company’s Avvenire series. The bike comes in the Terra Deluxe (targeted MSRP of $3,495) and Terra Ultimate (targeted MSRP of $7,999). With two 15W solar panels that trickle life into the battery and multi-level pedal assist, it can get up to 60miles of range and a max speed of 20 mph. The Terra comes with built-in Bluetooth speakers and a drink holder. It also has launched with RidePoints and Daymak Drive X capabilities, which according to Daymak mean that riders can collect redeemable points via the company’s EV reward program for just riding around, and that the bike is blockchain-enabled.

Harley-Davidson is going to offer limited sales through its ebike spinoff Serial 1, of vintage-inspired electric bike model known as the limited edition S1 Series ebike.

Zaiser Motors announced that it reached its Wefunder campaign goals and has released the specs for its platform redesign, which includes the addition of a second sportier electric motorcycle, the Arrow. Its first “Electrocycle” is called the Silhouette and and has 300 miles of range with a 120 mph top speed. Both designs look like something you might make Yoshi drive on Mario Kart, complete with a shiny and bubbly red chassis. The Arrow is designed for city riders, is priced at $8,500 and has an expected range of 160 miles with a 100 mph top speed.

Active lifestyle brand Retrospec has released the Valen Rev, a moto-style electric bike that makes me want to cruise alongside a boardwalk on a California beach. Honestly, it’s a really cute-looking bike, with a retro vibe to it, a tan leather saddle and a choice between fog blue, olive green or black — all matte. It’s got a 48V motor, 6 levels of pedal assist and a 50-mile range, all for the reasonable price of $1,799.99.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

It seemed as if the number of mobility-related SPAC deals had slowed. That brief pause was broken by Gogoro, the 10-year-old Taiwanese company best known for its electric scooters and swappable battery infrastructure.

The company has agreed to merge with Poema Global, a SPAC affiliated with Princeville Capital, in a deal that sets its enterprise valuation at $2.35 billion. If approved by shareholders. the company will trade on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol GGR.

Gogoro stands to make $550 million in proceeds, assuming as TechCrunch Catherine Shu reports, there are no redemptions. (A growing trend I really need to address in this newsletter). Those funds include an oversubscribed private investment in public equity of more than $250 million and $345 million held in trust by Poema Global. Investors in the PIPE include strategic partners like Hon Hai (Foxconn) Technology Group and GoTo, the Indonesian tech giant created through the merger of Gojek and Tokopedia, and new and existing investors like Generation Investment Management, Taiwan’s National Development Fund, Temasek and Dr. Samuel Yin of Ruentex Group, Gogoro’s founding investor.

So why now? Founder and CEO Horace Luke provided a curious answer that I know will cause a few of my institutional investor friends to raise an eyebrow or two. Luke first explained that with fresh partnerships in place — Yadea and DCJ in China to build a battery-swapping network and Hero MotoCorp in India to launch scooters — it was time to take the company to the next level.

And he added that Gogoro decided to go the SPAC route because “you can talk a lot deeper about what the business opportunity is, what the structure is, what the partnerships are, so you can properly value a company rather than a quick roadshow. Given our business plans, it gives us a great opportunity to focus on the expansion.”

Huh. Anyone ever heard of a “quick roadshow?” Comments from some founders who have taken the traditional IPO path would suggest the contrary.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

BridgeLinx, the Lahore-based startup that operates a digital freight marketplace, raised $10 million in what is the largest seed financing round in Pakistan. Harry Stebbings’ 20 VC, Josh Buckley’s Buckley Ventures and Indus Valley Capital co-led the startup’s financing round, which Salman Gul, co-founder and chief executive of BridgeLinx, told TechCrunch completed within weeks.

Chaldal, the Bangladeshi grocery delivery startups that picks up orders from its own warehouses instead of retail stores, closed a $10 million Series C round led by Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of Wise, Topia chief product officer Sten Tamkivi and Xploration Capital, with participation from Mir Group. The company plans to use the funds to expand into 15 new cities.

EnerVenue, a battery startup that says it has developed technology to revolutionize stationary energy storage, raised $100 million from strategic investors including Schlumberger, Saudi Aramco’s VC arm and Stanford University. The investment comes around a year after EnerVenue raised a $12 million seed. The company is planning on using the funds to scale its nickel-hydrogen battery production, including a factory in the U.S., and has entered a manufacturing and distribution agreement with Schlumberger for international markets.

GPB Capital Holdings LLC, the private-equity firm being investigated by the SEC on fraud allegations, is selling its car dealership company Prime Automotive Group for about $880 million, WSJ reports.

General Motors has invested in Oculii, a software startup that aims to improve the spatial resolution of radar sensors by up to 100-fold. The new funding, which the two companies say is in the millions, comes just months after Oculii closed a $55 million Series B.

Glovo, the Spanish on-demand delivery platform that operates a network of dark stores focused on urban convenience shopping, announced the acquisition of two regional “Instacart-style” grocery picking and delivery startups, Madrid-based Lola Market and Portugal’s Mercadão. Terms of the acquisitions are not being disclosed.

Muver, a mobile app that lets drivers earn more by managing their interactions with ride-sharing and delivery services, raised $1.2 million in a seed round led by Xploration Capital joined by Baring Vostok, Angelsdeck and Rapid Ladder Capital.

Rolls-Royce Holdings and Babcock International Group sold their combined 39% stake in air-to-air refueling company AirTanker Holdings Ltd. for 315 million pounds ($435 million) to Equitix Investment Management, Reuters reported.

Siemens wants to sell its logistics unit for roughly 500 million euro ($591 million) as part of the German industrial conglomerate’s plan to exit non-core businesses and focus on its industrial operations, Reuters reported.

UPS agreed to acquire Roadie, a platform that uses gig workers to provide local same-day delivery in the United States. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The acquisition signals shipping giant’s move into same-day delivery, particularly perishable and other goods that are not compatible with the UPS network.

Volta Trucks, the EV startup, raised €37 million ($44 million) to accelerate its plans to produce and sell large cargo vehicles. The round was led by New York-based Luxor Capital Group and returning investor Byggmästare Anders J Ahlström Holding of Stockholm. New investors included U.S. electric truck and battery manufacturer Proterra and supply chain management company Agility. Volta Trucksy said it plans to pilot a fleet of vehicles in London and Paris early next year.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Hello everyone! Welcome back to policy corner. Remember the safety probe the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration opened into Tesla Autopilot in August? In case your memory needs refreshing: NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation into 12 (originally eleven) incidents of Tesla cars crashing into parked emergency vehicles. The regulator ordered Tesla to hand over detailed data on the ADAS by October 22 or risk facing a fine of up to $115 million.

Earlier this week, NHTSA sent letters to 12 automakers — including Ford, VW, and General Motors — requesting data on their Level 2 ADAS to aid it in its investigation. The letter to Ford says the information request is “to gather information in support of [the agency’s] comparative analysis amongst production vehicles equipped with the ability to control both steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances.”

Among the data NHTSA is interested in obtaining: the number of vehicles equipped with ADAS the automaker has manufactured; how the company approaches the enforcement of driver attentiveness; other details about the system, like the conditions that would require driver take-over; as well as any consumer complaints, lawsuits, or crash reports related to the system.

Why is this news in policy corner? Well, similar to how each Supreme Court adjudication creates the law, the results of NHTSA’s investigations could also set a precedent for how ADAS is regulated writ large. The agency leveraging its broad authority to gather information could result in new standards or rules for how automakers develop and deploy ADAS in millions of cars now and into the future.

It’s important to remember that NHTSA really is empowered with a huge amount of authority — they could issue a recall of every Tesla on the road, if they so deemed that its Autopilot was sufficiently unsafe.

Speaking of Tesla and GM … it looks likely that the per-manufacturer cap disqualifying the two automakers’ vehicles from the so-called “30D” $7,500 tax credit may be removed soon. They’re disqualified because each automaker has sold more than 200,000 EVs. Anyway, there are two separate proposals being debated in Congress, one in the House and one in the Senate, as part of a larger effort to overhaul and potentially dramatically expand the 30D credit (I wrote about it here). While the proposals have a few significant differences, removing the manufacturer cap isn’t one of them. What that means is a Tesla Model 3 or a new Cadillac EV would once again qualify.

One more note … Evidently, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities halted the approval of new applications for its grant program for purchasing an electric vehicle — because the $30 million earmarked to cover the program is already nearly out of money! Under the Charge Up New Jersey program, people can apply for grants of up to $5,000 for an EV. But demand is so high that that money is already nearly gone.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Let’s dig into the news of the week …

Autonomous vehicles

Walmart has tapped Argo AI and Ford to launch an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Austin, Miami and Washington, D.C. The service will allow customers to place online orders for groceries and other items using Walmart’s ordering platform. Argo’s cloud-based infrastructure will be integrated with Walmart’s online platform, routing the orders and scheduling package deliveries to customers’ homes. Initially, the commercial service will be limited to specific geographic areas in each city and will expand over time. The companies will begin testing later this year.

Batteries

Redwood Materials, the company started by former Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel that aims to create a circular supply chain for batteries, is expanding beyond recycling. Redwood announced plans to simplify the supply chain by producing critical battery materials and is currently scouting a location for a new million-square-foot factory, at a cost of over $1 billion.

That factory will be dedicated to the production of cathodes and anode foils, the two essential building blocks of a lithium-ion battery structure — up to a projected volume of 100 gigawatt-hour per year’s worth of materials, enough for one million electric vehicles, by 2025.

Electric vehicles

Ford Motor announced plans to invest another $250 million and add 450 jobs to increase production capacity of its upcoming F-150 Lightning to 80,000 all-electric trucks annually. The announcement comes after receiving more than 150,000 pre-orders for the all-electric pickup truck. The additional funds and jobs will be spread out across its new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center and Rawsonville Components Plant.

Lucid Group, the all-electric automaker slated to go public this year, said one variant of its upcoming luxury Air sedan has an EPA range of more than 520 miles. The official rating of the Lucid Air Dream Edition Range variant pushes Lucid past Tesla, a company that has long dominated in this category. This announcement not only gives Lucid bragging rights, it reveals a bit about the company’s strategy to offer a variety of versions of the Air sedan with prices ranging between $169,000 and $77,400.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced via Twitter it will investigate a Tesla vehicle crash that killed two people in Coral Gables, Florida. It is not clear if the company’s advanced driver assistance system Autopilot was engaged at the time.

Polestar has shared a few more details of its future electric SUV, including that it will have only two rows of seats, offer single-motor and dual-motor versions and have a powertrain that goes beyond EV versions of the Volvo XC90, Car and Driver reported.

People news

Clive Sinclair, the British entrepreneur and inventor behind the ZX personal computer, pocket calculator and numerous other consumer electronics, died at age 81. Sinclair was also interested in electric vehicles. He invented the infamous Sinclair C5 electric trike, which would spectacularly fail in 1982 only to gain a cult following many years later. Sinclair would invent other electric vehicles, including the electric bike called Sinclair Zike in 1992. He actually spent much of his time in the past 12 years working on personal transportation vehicles like the foldable A bike.

Ford Motor has hired Mike Amend as its chief digital and information officer as the automaker seeks to expand into software, subscriptions and in-vehicle connectivity. Amend, who was president of Lowe’s Online for three years, will focus on Ford’s “use of data, software and technology” — all areas central to Ford’s new Ford+ strategy.

Misc. bits

CNBC writes about headlights and how they’re undergoing a technological revolution that has regulators trying to catch up.

Hyundai, which owns a controlling interest in Boston Dynamics, announced the arrival of the “Factory Safety Service Robot,” essentially a modded up version of Spot designed for safety inspections at factories. Naturally, Hyundai is starting close to home, rolling out its first pilot at a Seoul plant for subsidiary, Kia.

Fair Financial Corp., the car subscription startup, is considering bankruptcy to eliminate debt, reported Automotive News. The company now wants to start a vehicle retailing platform called Fair Technologies.

Reilly Brennan of Trucks VC has launched a jobs board called Mobility Jobs that is focused on the future of transportation. Reilly, who has his own well regarded newsletter, is also fan of TechCrunch and so he’s giving us this code: THESTATION, which gives you dear reader 100% off if you post a job using that special code. Cheers!

#automotive, #electric-pickup-trucks, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gogoro, #hyundai, #polestar, #reilly-brennan, #rivian, #scooters, #tesla, #the-station, #transportation, #venture-capital

How to meet the demand of EV infrastructure and maintain a stable grid

As electric vehicles (EVs) become the new standard, charging infrastructure will become a commonplace detail blending into the landscape, available in a host of places from a range of providers: privately run charging stations, the office parking lot, home garages and government-provided locations to fill in the gaps. We need a new energy blueprint for the United States in order to maintain a stable grid to support this national move to EV charging.

The Biden administration announced 500,000 charging stations to be installed nationally and additional energy storage to facilitate the shift to EVs. Integrating all of this new infrastructure and transitioning requires balancing the traffic on the grid and managing increased energy demand that stretches beyond power lines and storage itself.

The majority of EV infrastructure pulls its power from the grid, which will add significant demand when it reaches scale. In an ideal situation, EV charging stations will have their own renewable power generation co-located with storage, but new programs and solutions are needed in order to make it available everywhere. A range of scenarios for how renewables can be used to power EV charging have been piloted in the U.S. in recent years. Eventually, EVs will likely even provide power to the grid.

These technological advances will happen as we progress through the energy transition; regardless, EV infrastructure will heavily rely on the U.S. grid. That makes coordination across a range of stakeholders and behavior change among the general public essential for keeping the grid stable while meeting energy demand.

The White House’s fact sheet for EV charging infrastructure points to a technical blueprint that the Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute will be working on together. It is critical that utilities, energy management and storage stakeholders, and the general public be included in planning — here’s why.

Stakeholder collaboration

Charging infrastructure is currently fragmented in the U.S. Much of it is privatized and there are complaints that unless you drive a Tesla, it is hard to find charging while on the road. Some EV owners have even returned to driving gas-powered vehicles. There’s reason to be hopeful that this will rapidly change.

ChargePoint and EVgo are two companies that will likely become household names as their EV networks expand. A coalition made up of some of the largest U.S. utilities — including American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy, Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority — called the Electric Highway Coalition, announced plans for a regional network of charging stations spanning their utility territories.

Networks that swap out private gas stations for EV charging is one piece of the puzzle. We also need to ensure that everyone has affordable access and that charging times are staggered — this is one of the core concerns on every stakeholder’s mind. Having charging available in a range of places spreads out demand, helping keep power available and the grid balanced.

Varying consumer needs including location and housing, work schedules and economic situations require considerations and new solutions that make EVs and charging accessible to everyone. What works in the suburbs won’t suit rural or urban areas, and just imagine someone who works the night shift in a dense urban area.

Biden’s plan includes, “$4 million to encourage strong partnerships and new programs to increase workplace charging regionally or nationally, which will help increase the feasibility of [plug-in electric vehicle] ownership for consumers in underserved communities.” Partnerships and creative solutions will equally be needed.

An opportunity to fully engage technologies we already have

“Fifty percent of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have,” John Kerry said recently, causing a stir. He later clarified that we also have technologies now that we need to put to work, which received less air time. In reality, we are just getting started in utilizing existing renewable and energy transition technologies; we have yet to realize their full potential.

Currently, utility-scale and distributed energy storage are used for their most simplistic capabilities, that is, jumping in when energy demand reaches its peak and helping keep the grid stable through services referred to as balancing and frequency regulation. But as renewable energy penetration increases and loads such as EVs are electrified, peak demand will be exacerbated.

The role that storage plays for EV charging stations seems well understood. On-site storage is used daily to provide power for charging cars at any given time. Utility-scale storage has the same capabilities and can be used to store and then supply renewable power to the grid in large quantities every day to help balance the demand of EVs.

A stable power system for EVs combines utilities and utility-scale storage with a network of subsystems where energy storage is co-located with EV charging. All of the systems are coordinated and synchronized to gather and dispatch energy at different times of the day based on all the factors that affect grid stability and the availability of renewable power. That synchronization is handled by intelligent energy management software that relies on sophisticated algorithms to forecast and respond to changes within fractions of a second.

This model also makes it possible to manage the cost of electricity and EV demand on the grid. Those subsystems could be municipal-owned locations in lower-income areas. Such a subsystem would collect power in its storage asset and set the price locally on its own terms. These systems could incentivize residents to power up there at certain times of the day in order to make charging more affordable by providing an alternative to the real-time cost of electricity during peak demand when using a home outlet, for example.

Behavior change

The greatest challenge for utilities will be how to manage EV loads and motivate people to stagger charging their vehicles, rather than everyone waiting until they are home in the evening during off-peak renewable generation periods. If everyone plugged in at the same time, we’d end up cooking dinner in the dark.

While there’s been talk of incentivizing the public to charge at different times and spread out demand, motivators vary among demographics. With the ability to charge at home and skip a trip to the “gas station” — or “power station,” as it may be referred to in the future — many people will choose convenience over cost.

The way we currently operate, individual energy usage seems like an independent, isolated event to consumers and households. EVs will require everyone — from utilities and private charging stations to consumers — to be more aware of demand on the grid and act more as communities sharing energy.

Thus, a diverse charging network alone won’t solve the issue of overtaxing the grid. A combination of a new blueprint for managing energy on the grid plus behavior change is needed.

#automotive, #charging-station, #column, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #energy-management, #energy-storage, #opinion, #tc, #transportation, #vehicle-to-grid

Elon Musk praises Chinese automakers amidst regulatory scrutiny

An unusually scripted Elon Musk issued conciliatory and complimentary comments to Chinese automakers during a pre-recorded appearance at China’s World New Energy Vehicle Congress, striking a pose that is worlds away from his commentary style in the United States.

“I have a great deal of respect for the many Chinese automakers for driving these [EV and AV] technologies,” he said, the reflection of a ring light just visible in the window over his left shoulder. The entire tableau was enough to make one suspect that there was a crisis communications expert just out of frame, urging him to continue with his prepared remarks.

Then again, perhaps Musk doesn’t need any external coaxing; China is one of the most lucrative markets for electric vehicles in the entire world, accounting for around one-fifth – or $6.66 billion – of Tesla’s overall sales last year, according to regulatory filings.

While the United States continues to be one Tesla’s largest market, the company has aggressively pursued expansion in China, including opening Gigafactory Shanghai in 2019 to manufacture the Model 3 and Model Y. Tesla faces competition from Chinese automakers, including electric car startup Xpeng and the search giant company Baidu.

“My frank observation is that Chinese automobile companies are the most competitive in the world, especially because some are very good at software, and it is software that will most shape the future of the automobile industry, from design to manufacturing and especially autonomous driving,” Musk said in the message.

The company’s entrance into the EV market of the world’s most populous nation was bumpy at first, but Tesla managed to turn it around. Last year, the Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling EV in China. Tesla has also received unprecedented autonomy in the region, especially as it is the only non-Chinese automaker allowed to wholly own its local subsidiary. It’s a fact that Musk’s noted in past public appearances.

“I think something that’s really quite noteworthy here is, Tesla’s the only foreign manufacturer to have a hundred percent owned factory in China,” Musk said during the company’s Battery Day event last year. “This is often not well understood or not appreciated, but to have the only hundred percent owned foreign factory in China is a really big deal, and it’s paying huge dividends.”

But it hasn’t all been roses: the company has faced a flurry of negative media from both consumers and regulators this year, beginning in February when Chinese government officials summoned company executives for a meeting over vehicle safety concerns.  (To which Tesla said, “We sincerely accepted the guidance of government departments and deeply reflected on shortcomings in our business operations.”)

Then, in April, a woman who said she was a Tesla owner protested the company at the Shanghai auto show in April. Bloomberg reported a few months later that Tesla was attempting to build relationships with Chinese social media influencers and auto-industry publications to combat all the bad PR.

In his pre-recorded remarks, Musk also responded to a question on self-driving vehicles and data security, calling it “not only the responsibility of a single company but also the cornerstone of the whole industry development.” This issue is especially sensitive after news emerged that the Chinese military banned drivers from parking their Tesla’s at its facilities. Last month, China released new regulations aimed at bolstering data security in connected automobiles, Tech Wire Asia reported. Tesla and other automakers, including Ford and BMW, moved to establish local data storage centers in China.

“Tesla will work with national authorities in all countries to ensure data security of intelligent and connected vehicles,” he added.

#automotive, #china, #electric-vehicles, #elon-musk, #tesla, #transportation, #xpeng

Ford boosts spending to increase production capacity of its F-150 Lightning electric truck

Ford said Thursday it will invest another $250 million and add 450 jobs to increase production capacity of its upcoming F-150 Lightning to 80,000 all-electric trucks annually. The announcement comes after receiving more than 150,000 pre-orders for the all-electric pickup truck.

The additional funds and jobs will be spread out across its new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center and Rawsonville Components Plant, Ford said.

The announcement was made during an event at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, a 500,000-square-foot facility expansion that was part of Ford’s $700 million investment in its Rouge Complex. Gas-powered F-Series trucks are also assembled at the Rouge Complex.

Ford also announced that has started pre-production of the Lightning trucks. These prototypes will be used for real-world testing. The truck will be available to customers in spring 2022.

The all-electric pickup truck is a critical piece of the company’s $30 billion investment into electrification and one of a trifecta of Ford EV debuts and launches in the 18 months, including the Mustang Mach-E. The Lightning may be the most meaningful in terms of the bottom line. The Ford F-150 Lightning follows the introduction of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E and the E-Transit, a configurable all-electric cargo van focused on commercial customers.

The F-150 Lightning will be offered in four trims, which includes the base, XLT, Lariat and Platinum series, and two battery options. The truck, which has an aluminum alloy body, is powered by two in-board electric motors, comes standard with four-wheel drive and has an independent rear suspension. The base version will be priced at $39,974 before any federal or state tax credits, while the midseries XLT model will start at $52,974. All of these prices exclude the destination fees and taxes.

#electric-vehicles, #f-150-lightning, #ford, #tc

Lucid Air snags the longest range EV title, surpassing Tesla

Lucid Group, the all-electric automaker slated to go public this year, said Thursday that one variant of its upcoming luxury Air sedan has an EPA range of more than 520 miles. The official rating of the Lucid Air Dream Edition Range variant pushes Lucid past Tesla, a company that has long dominated in this category.

The official EPA range of the Lucid Air — and its many editions — have been expected to be as high or higher than some of Tesla’s models. This announcement not only gives Lucid bragging rights, it reveals a bit about the company’s strategy to offer a variety of versions of the Air sedan with prices ranging between $169,000 and $77,400.

Lucid initially planned to sell one version of Lucid Air Dream Edition, essentially its first and flagship model of the sedan. There are now two versions: the Lucid AirDream Edition Range, which has 520 miles of range when equipped with 19-inch tires and 933 horsepower, and the Lucid Air Dream Edition Performance, a more powerful version with 1,111 horsepower that can travel 471 miles on a single charge when equipped with 19-inch tires. The range on the Dream Edition Range drops to 481 and the Dream Edition Performance to 451 miles when the vehicles have 21 inch tires.

Lucid Group CTO and CEO Peter Rawlinson credits the range figure on a combination of its 900V battery and battery management system, smaller drive units and its electric drive train technology. Rawlinson noted that he believed this is a new record for any EV.

Lucid plans to produce and sell other variants of the Air, including a Grand Touring version that received a 516-mile EPA range rating. The Grand Touring variant has a starting price of $139,000, while the longest range Dream Edition has a base price of $169,000. The automaker plans to sell two other, less expensive versions: the Air Touring that starts at $95,000 and the Air Pure with a $77,400 base price.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #lucid-air, #lucid-group, #tesla, #transportation

Gravity is launching an indoor charging hub in NYC with plans to scale

Electric vehicle fleet and infrastructure startup Gravity thinks it has cracked the code for urban EV charging infrastructure. 

The company, which was founded in February this year, announced its construction project to convert an indoor parking garage in the middle of Manhattan into a public EV fast charging hub. When the 29-space garage on 42nd Street, which Gravity is leasing from real estate firm Related Companies, opens in within a few weeks, it will be the island’s first dedicated EV charging space. Based on Gravity’s plans to scale, it won’t be the last. 

“We’ll probably see five to ten fast charging sites of different capacity in Manhattan over the next six months or so,” Moshe Cohen, Gravity’s CEO and founder told TechCrunch. “We’ve gone with Con Ed to dozens of sites in the five boroughs. We’ve surveyed the power grid and have plans to scale because it doesn’t work as a one-off. It works with scale, with coverage areas.”

Finding a place to park your car in New York City is a nightmare in and of itself. Finding a park and a charge for your EV is like finding a unicorn, and probably an expensive unicorn at that. Most of NYC’s EV charge points are behind the literal paywalls of parking garages, where you might find one or two Blink or EV Connect chargers nestled into a sea of ICE vehicle parking spaces. With Gravity’s hub, parking is free while cars are being charged. The only cost is that of electricity.

Gravity is not the first to recognize the problem of charging electric vehicles in an urban core. Electric mobility company Revel, first known for its shared e-mopeds around New York City, opened the city’s first public fast charging hub in an outdoor lot in Brooklyn this past June. Con Edison, New York’s electric utility company, has supported both initiatives with its electric vehicle charging incentives and rewards.

For Gravity’s site at Manhattan Plaza, the company worked with Con Ed to pull spare capacity power from two separate utility rooms on 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue, bringing in around 2,400 amps of power, which Cohen says is extremely rare to have condensed in one place in any city, let alone New York.

Cohen said he spent a long time location-scouting before choosing this as Gravity’s first spot, and proximity to power wasn’t the only game changer here. The site has its own dedicated entrance off 42nd Street and falls right between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, which is not only close to Times Square and the heart of the city, but also to the Lincoln Tunnel which provides access to and from New Jersey.

“Our vision is we are bringing infrastructure to all the places that cars are right now, so if you’re in our coverage area, you should never have to worry about charging your vehicle, because it’ll get charged where it’s parked,” said Cohen. “So if you think about dense urban areas like Manhattan or downtown Chicago, where are cars parked? They’re either on a curb or they’re inside parking garages, and they’re very space constrained. And so you have to design different equipment that deals with the space and power constraints in order to have charging happen in all those places.”

Design is a big part of Gravity’s business model, from the design of the space itself to the charging equipment. The company says it’s collaborating with Jasmit Rangr, an architect who is known for integrating his buildings with the landscape, climate and environment, in order to transform garages into attractive and welcoming spaces that house clean electric vehicles. 

“The whole area is for EVs only, so it’s really a chance to showcase an experience around what the world would look like if parking areas for cars had no pollution or oil spills,” said Cohen.

Indeed, the renderings do look pretty flash – not at all the dark, creepy, petrol-smelling caverns that one associates with city parking garages. Gravity says Rangr also integrated interactive touchscreens into the designs of the various spaces the company is building out around NYC. The touchscreens are designed by Gravity to help users adjust and monitor their vehicle’s charging as they wait amongst the light-filled wooden car cubbies and try to decide if the plant decor is real or fake. 

Providing standardized and simplified equipment was a big concern for Cohen, as well. He says the current model for public charging equipment in most cases includes an amalgamation of software, hardware and payment processing that are not very well integrated. Gravity has worked with an unnamed manufacturing partner to consolidate those segments and create a more seamless user experience, and that includes what’s happening on the back end of the charge, according to the company. 

Gravity’s first site will accommodate about 22 fast chargers, three intermediate chargers and a few slow chargers. All of the fast chargers are up to 180kW, which means that even when two vehicles are plugged into one installation, each plug can do 90 kW of energy. Cohen says anything below 80 kW isn’t truly fast charging, and many of the companies that claim they offer fast charging are really only able to put out around 62.5 kW. Cohen also says by sending that current through 400 amp charging cables, even smaller volt batteries like those in Teslas can receive more than 80 kW. 

The intermediate chargers use about 24kW to 30 kW equipment and charge cars within one to three hours. The slow chargers charge overnight or within six to eight hours using 11 kW equipment. 

Many of the parking spots will be taken up by Gravity’s fleet of Tesla Model Y yellow cabs, which will charge overnight, says Cohen. Bringing a fleet of electric taxis to NYC was actually the impetus behind building charging infrastructure. Cohen has a soft spot for the yellow cab as an institution and wanted to come up with a way to give it a Renaissance. He got the greenlight from Tesla to lease the vehicles for this use case and worked with the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to change the rules so a Tesla could be seen as a taxi before setting out on the harder task of how to charge the fleet. 

“I talked to all the major charging equipment companies, and I quickly realized that there’s no charging equipment that is set up for charging fleets, and I realized the extent of the problem,” said Cohen. “We started thinking about infrastructure because the model just does not work without infrastructure and a yellow taxi using a model Y requires high levels of utilization and scale.”

In May, the TLC approved Gravity’s pilot program, and Cohen said the agency is going to release an MOU to continue the program within the next few weeks. In the meantime, Gravity wants to ramp up installing equipment at scale so that it can then grow its fleet.

“People think of mobility as this drain of cash and nobody has figured it out,” said Cohen. “I actually think that mobility and infrastructure are going to get solved together, and you’ll be able to make margins off utilization that are generous.”

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ev-charging, #gravity, #nyc, #tesla-model-y, #transportation

Rivian vehicles are now ready for sale in all 50 states, following key certifications

Rivian vehicles have received certifications from three agencies, the final hurdle that allows the electric automaker to sell and deliver its R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV in all 50 U.S. states.

Rivian confirmed to TechCrunch in an email that the vehicles are fully certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. Bloomberg also reported that Rivian has received regulatory approval to deliver vehicles to customers.

Rivian has a direct sales model, in which customers can order its vehicles online. Dealer protection laws in many states prohibit companies like Rivian from having its own stores, where customers can take test drives and learn about financing options. However, there are no restrictions from customers ordering online from those states.

Today, 22 states allow for all vehicle manufacturers to sell vehicles to customers, according to the NRDC. In those states, Rivian can set up stores, display vehicles, offer test rides and importantly discuss financing. Another 11 states allow for only Tesla, which also has a direct sales model, to sell vehicles, often in a limited number of locations throughout the state.

Rivian plans to begin deliveries of the R1T launch edition this month. Deliveries of the R1S SUV are expected to follow this year.

Confirmation of the certifications from the state and two federal agencies followed a trio of announcements in the past several weeks that , including the first production Rivian R1T electric pickup truck in “Rivian blue” rolling off the assembly line Tuesday morning at the company’s factory in Normal, Illinois. The company’s two vehicles also received official EPA ranges of 314 miles for the first edition version of its all-electric R1T pickup truck and 316 miles for the R1T SUV.

All of this follows Rivian confidentially filing paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. The company, backed by a host of institutional and strategic investors including Ford and Amazon, has not size and price range for the proposed offering.

Sources familiar with Rivian’s IPO plans said the company has not yet started the “roadshow,” a process in which an underwriting firm and company management make a series of presentations to potential investors before going public.

 

#automotive, #electric-trucks, #electric-vehicles, #ipo, #rivian, #transportation

Rivian’s first-production R1T electric pickup truck rolls off the line

The first-production Rivian R1T electric pickup truck in “Rivian blue” rolled off the assembly line Tuesday morning at the company’s factory in Normal, Illinois, marking a milestone more than a decade in the making for the automaker and its founder and CEO, RJ Scaringe.

The company, which started in 2009 as Mainstream Motors before adopting the Rivian name two years later, has undergone explosive growth in terms of people, backers and partners in the past few years.

Rivian operated in relative obscurity, aka stealth mode, for years before it revealed prototypes of its all-electric R1T truck and R1S SUV at the LA Auto Show in late 2018.

Since then, Rivian has raised billions of dollars ($10.5 billion in all); expanded its Normal, Illinois, factory; hired thousands of employees; landed Amazon as a commercial customer; and, most recently, filed confidentially for an IPO. Today, in addition to its Illinois factory, Rivian has facilities in Palo Alto and Irvine, California; and Plymouth, Michigan; and an office in the U.K.

When it first revealed the two electric vehicles in 2018, Rivian had about 600 employees. Today, it has more than 7,000.

Rivian’s announcement Tuesday, which marks the official beginning of R1T production for customers, comes after at least two delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and global chip shortage. Earlier this summer, Scaringe wrote in a letter to customers that R1T deliveries would begin in September, with the R1S to follow “shortly.”

Rivian has been juggling the dueling priorities of prepping and eventually producing the R1T and R1S for consumers and commercial delivery vans for Amazon. The Illinois factory has two separate production lines producing vehicles. One is dedicated to the R1 vehicles and the other line is for its commercial vans.

Amazon ordered 100,000 of these vans, with deliveries starting in 2021. Earlier this year, Amazon began testing the electric delivery van in several cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Earlier this month, Rivian announced that the first edition version of the R1T pickup truck has an official EPA range of 314 miles, while its R1T SUV comes in at 316 miles.

The official range and fuel economy values posted on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website align with Rivian’s previous estimates, which it advertised as 300 miles.

The moment is also important because it means Rivian has the benefit of being the first electric truck on the market. Ford’s F-150 Lightning, which isn’t expected to come on the market until spring 2022, has a targeted range of 230 miles in the standard and up to 300 miles in the extended version. The EPA has not issued official ranges for the Ford Lightning.

Rivian’s “Launch edition” R1T truck and R1S SUV come equipped with a 135-kWh battery pack that is branded as the “large pack.” Deliveries of the Launch Edition vehicles are slated to begin this month.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #r1t, #rivian, #rj-scaringe, #transportation

In a first, New York passes law banning new fossil fuel vehicle sales after 2034

Widespread EV charging stations will be critical for New York to feasibly phase-out new fossil fuel vehicles by its 2035 deadline.

Enlarge / Widespread EV charging stations will be critical for New York to feasibly phase-out new fossil fuel vehicles by its 2035 deadline. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

New York will ban the sale of fossil fuel vehicles starting in 2035 and require all new cars to produce zero emissions. The new law, signed by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul last week, will help slash the state’s carbon pollution by 35 percent. It would put New York well on its way to achieving its statewide carbon reduction goals of 85 percent below 1990 levels.

While the sunset date is in line with other plans from the state government, hitting the goal will still require significant planning and coordination. Though EVs aren’t uncommon in New York, the state is effectively starting from zero—around 1 percent of new vehicles sold in the Empire State are fully electric.

The new law doesn’t stop at passenger vehicles. It also requires zero emissions for off-road vehicles and equipment by 2035 and for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045. There’s some wiggle room with these mandates should batteries or fuel cells for large trucks or construction equipment lag significantly. The law says zero emissions will only be required “where feasible.”

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #fossil-fuels, #new-york, #new-york-city, #policy, #zero-emissions-vehicles

JB Straubel’s Redwood Materials is expanding into the battery materials business

Redwood Materials, the company started by former Tesla co-founder JB Straubel that aims to create a circular supply chain for batteries, is expanding its business. While it has been known primarily as a recycling firm, Redwood plans to simplify the supply chain by producing critical battery materials right here in the U.S.

To get there, the company is currently scouting a location for a new million-square-foot factory, at a cost of over $1 billion, Bloomberg reported. That factory would be dedicated to the production of cathodes and anode foils, the two essential building blocks of a lithium-ion battery structure – up to a projected volume of 100 gigawatt-hour per year’s worth of materials, enough for one million electric vehicles, by 2025.

But that’s not all. By 2030, the company expects to increase its annual battery materials production to 500 GWh, enough to power five million electric vehicles.

These numbers are incredibly ambitious. If Redwood can pull it off, it would be putting itself squarely among the ranks of the largest materials giants in the world, many of which are located in Asia. BloombergNEF estimated that consolidating the cathode supply chain to the United States, and using a certain percentage of recycled materials, could cut emissions from battery-pack production by 41%.

Recycling alone won’t take the company to these kinds of production numbers, though Redwood is also planning on expanding its recycling operations. Instead, the company said in a statement that it would produce the anodes and cathodes from both recycled batteries and “sustainably mined material.” For now, the company is staying mum on its partners for this new endeavor, but it will likely mean more announcements of partnerships and expansions in the future.

This is just the latest bold move from the company, which has been making moves to aggressively expand its footprint for months. Earlier this summer, Redwood said it would triple the size of its 150,000-square-foot recycling facility in Carson City, Nevada, and it also purchased 100 acres of land near Tesla and Panasonic’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. The news also comes fresh off the heels of a $700 million Series C funding round, from major investors including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Baillie Gifford and Goldman Sachs Asset Management. The capital launched Redwood’s valuation to $3.7 billion.

The company has recycling deals with Tesla, Amazon, electric bus maker Proterra, and electric bike maker Specialized Bicycle Components. Redwood says it can recover between 95-95% of critical materials from recycled batteries, such as lithium, copper, nickel and cobalt.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #jb-straubel, #lithium-ion-batteries, #supply-chains, #tesla, #transportation

Toyota, Honda urge Congress to reject expanded tax incentive that would benefit Ford, GM, Stellantis

Toyota Motor and Honda are urging legislators to reject a bill that would expand tax incentives for union-made electric vehicles that are built in the United States.

The proposal – which Toyota blasted as “blatantly biased” and “exorbitant” in a letter to Congress – would expand the federal tax incentives from $7,500 to as much as $12,500 for union- and domestically manufactured cars. Vehicles with batteries manufactured in the U.S. would be eligible for an additional $500. If the legislation passes, vehicles from automakers like Toyota, Honda and Tesla would be excluded from the expanded credit, while the “Big Three” manufacturers in Detroit would all qualify.

“The current [bill] draft makes the objective of accelerating the deployment of electrified vehicles secondary by discriminating against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize,” Toyota said in a letter to lawmakers. “This is unfair, it is wrong, and we ask you to reject this blatantly biased proposal.”

The automaker further said that the bill favors the wealthy – people that may not need public funds to purchase an electric vehicle. There is a means testing provision in the bill, that would limit access to the credit to individuals making an adjusted income of up to $400,000, or households that make up to $800,000. Whether to set an income cap – and what that income cap should be – has been a major point of contention between Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

The bill also received criticism from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said on Twitter that it was “written by Ford/UAW lobbyists, as they make their electric car in Mexico. Not obvious how this serves American taxpayers.”

This would be the first such increase to the up to $7,500 tax credit for EVs since it was put into effect over a decade ago. The bill would also do away with a stipulation that exempts vehicles made by OEMs that have sold over 200,000 EVs from the credit, meaning that General Motor and Tesla cars would once again be eligible.

The bill did receive praise from GM, Ford Motor and Stellantis, three major automakers with workforces represented by the United Auto Workers union. The UAW also supports the proposal.

It’s being considered Tuesday by the House Ways and Means Committee. The expanded credit just one part of a massive $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that’s currently being debated by Congress and that includes a whole slew of socially progressive proposals meant to target education, healthcare, and climate change.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #general-motor, #gm, #policy, #tesla, #toyota, #transportation

Ford hires new chief digital information officer as it seeks to expand into software and services

Ford Motor has hired Mike Amend as its chief digital and information officer as the automaker seeks to expand into software, subscriptions and in-vehicle connectivity. Amend, who was president of Lowe’s Online for three years, will focus on Ford’s “use of data, software and technology” — all areas central to Ford’s new Ford+ strategy, the OEM said.

The hire is just the latest sign that Ford is serious about beefing up its digital offerings for customers, as the company seeks to pivot toward high-tech segments. The company calls this plan “Ford+,” which it unveiled earlier this year. Central to this plan is electric vehicles, which Ford wants to comprise around half of its global sales by 2030, as well as expanding into new sources of revenue via subscriptions and digital services.

To that end, Amend will oversee a number of teams, including Ford’s technology and software platform function and its global data insight and analytics section.

Amend isn’t Ford’s only recent hire of note. The automaker also recently poached Doug Field — the tech executive who was leading Apple’s special projects team, and who also led the development of the Model 3 at Tesla — as chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. The two will work closely, along with chief of product Hau Thai-Tang, Ford said.

Amend’s career includes growing the online businesses of major retailers, including Lowe’s, The Home Depot and JCPenney. Ford’s interim chief information officer, Sakis Kitsopanidis, will continue to serve as director of integrated enterprise resource planning.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #ford-motor, #hiring, #transportation

House infrastructure bill includes tax credits for new and used EVs

The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a wide-ranging overhaul of the current electric vehicle incentives as part of the infrastructure bill.

Enlarge / The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a wide-ranging overhaul of the current electric vehicle incentives as part of the infrastructure bill. (credit: Stadtratte)

On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee released a markup of its proposed budget reconciliation bill. There’s a ton of information in the $3.5 trillion plan, but today, we’re interested in a small section of the 645-page “Budget Reconciliation Legislative Recommendations Relating to Infrastructure Financing, Green Energy, Social Safety Net, and Prescription Drug Pricing” section—specifically the parts that deal with incentives to decarbonize our vehicle fleet.

Beginning in 2010, the Federal government has incentivized people to buy or lease new plug-in vehicles by offering them a tax credit. The credit is based on battery size, starting at $2,917 for a vehicle with a 5 kWh battery and providing an additional $417 per extra kWh, topping out at $7,500. However, the credit only applies to the first 200,000 plug-ins sold by an OEM, at which point the credit begins to expire. To date, only Tesla and General Motors have sold enough plug-in vehicles to see their credits sunset.

If the budget reconciliation bill passes as is, the current tax credit (known as 30D) goes away, to be replaced by several new purchasing incentives for greener, more efficient vehicles.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #house-of-representatives, #infrastructure-bill, #plug-in-vehicles, #policy, #tax-code

GM extends Chevy Bolt EV production shutdown another two weeks

GM has extended a shutdown at its Orion Assembly Plant another two weeks due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV safety recall.

GM said the extended downtime at the Orion plant will last through September 20. Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan has been shut down since August 23.

The recall, which now includes all Chevy Bolt EV and EUV models made since 2017, was issued after the automaker discovered two manufacturing defects in the battery cell that could increase the risk of fire. The possible fire risk prompted GM to recommend Bolt owners set the vehicle to a 90% state of charge limitation and avoid depleting the battery below 70 miles of range. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration recommends Bolt drivers park their vehicles away from their homes to reduce fire risk.

The automaker said it is working with its supplier LG Chem to “update manufacturing processes.”

Orion was initially shuttered in August because of a shortage of semiconductor chips. GM later notified employees that the plant would continue to be down because of a shortage of batteries related to the recall.

The recall is expected to cost GM $1.8 billion. A GM spokesperson did not provide an update on whether this extended downtime would push that number higher. The automaker has said it will seek reimbursement from LG Chem.

Chip shortages

While the global shortage of semiconductor chips has persisted, GM said it will be able to resume production at several of its plants over the next two weeks.

Full production will begin at its Fort Wayne Assembly and Silao Assembly plants, which produces the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 models, beginning September 13 after being briefly impacted by the global semiconductor shortage, GM said.

All of GM’s full-size truck and full-size SUV plants in North American will be running full production next week.

GM’s Spring Hill Assembly plant in Tennessee will resume production of the GMC Acadia and Cadillac XT5 and XT6 on September 20, after being shuttered since mid-July. That plant will be shut down again as part of a previously scheduled extended downtime beginning the week of September 27 through the week of November 22 for new-model tooling installation.

Cadillac XT4 production, which has been down since February 8, will resume at the Fairfax Assembly in Kansas. GM said production of the Chevrolet Malibu, which is also at Fairfax, will remain down.

The company extended downtimes by one week at Lansing Delta Township and Wentzville, along with an additional week of Chevrolet Blazer production downtime at its Ramos facility.

#automotive, #chevy-bolt-euv, #electric-vehicles, #gm, #tc, #transportation

Ford builds leadership team of commercial vehicle unit ahead of E-Transit launch

Ford has hired six senior-level executives to its newly minted commercial vehicles and services business unit as the automaker prepares to bring to market the E-Transit cargo van and the F-150 Lightning Pro pickup truck  — two electric vehicles it’s betting will become commercial customers’ new workhorses.

Ford pulled from within its ranks and outside the company to fill out the leadership team for the new business unit, Ford Pro. Among the new hires is Muffi Ghadiali, the CEO of Electriphi, the battery management and fleet monitoring software startup that Ford acquired in June. Ghadiali will continue to serve in his role with Electriphi and head up Ford Pro’s charging department.

Ford also hired Tim Baughman, Ford’s former controller for U.S. marketing, sales and service, to be the general manager of Ford Pro North America. Ford Pro’s new CFO will be Navin Kumar, who was previously at Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC.

Tracey Pass, who comes from The Walt Disney Company, has been hired as the chief human resources officer, and Rahul Singh, who was head of software development for Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, is the unit’s CTO. Wanda Young, chief marketing officer of Samsung Electronics America, has taken a similar position at Ford Pro.

Ford previously announced that Hans Schep will be the general manager of Ford Pro Europe.

Ford Pro is focused on more than just commercial vans. The division, led by Ted Cannis, aims to sell fleet management, maintenance and charging services to commercial clients as well. Ford Pro has said it expects to generate $45 billion in revenue from hardware and adjacent and new services by 2025 — up from $27 billion in 2019.

That’s a hefty hike in revenue and a target that Ford plans to meet by selling a mix of combustion-engine, hybrid, and soon all-electric versions of its vans and full-size pickup trucks; and offering depot and home charging for the EVs, digital services for customers to manage and maintain their fleets, a network of service centers, and, of course, financing.

Ford’s commercial vehicle business has a head start in Europe, where it has been the leading commercial vehicle brand for six consecutive years. In North America, Ford’s share of Class 1 through Class 7 full-size commercial trucks and vans exceeds 40%, according to the company.

A new opportunity to grab more market share has opened up as governments, particularly in Europe, place stricter emissions regulations in urban areas. The E-Transit cargo van, which is expected to ship to customers later this year, and the commercial variant of the F-150 Lightning Pro play a critical role in Ford Pro’s plans. The Lightning pickup truck is expected to come to market in spring 2022.

#automotive, #e-transit, #electric-vehicles, #ev-charging, #ford, #ford-motor, #tc, #transportation

After ignoring EVs for too long, Toyota will invest $13.6 billion in batteries

Toyota's first modern battery EV will be the bZ4x, due in 2022.

Enlarge / Toyota’s first modern battery EV will be the bZ4x, due in 2022. (credit: Toyota)

Toyota was an early pioneer in hybrid electric vehicles, and it has sold more than 18 million hybrids since the introduction of the first Prius in 1997. But it’s fair to say that the world’s largest automaker has been left behind in the shift toward battery EVs.

That situation looks like it’s set to change. On Tuesday, Toyota announced that it will spend $13.6 billion (¥1.5 trillion) on batteries between now and 2030. Of that money, $9 billion (¥1 trillion) will go toward battery production, with a planned output of 180 to 200 GWh/year by the end of the decade.

“What Toyota values the most is to develop batteries that its customers can use with peace of mind. Especially, we are focusing on safety, long service life, and high-level quality to produce good, low-cost, and high-performance batteries,” said Chief Technology Officer Masahiko Maeda.

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#batteries, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #lithium-ion-battery, #solid-state-batteries, #toyota

Automakers race to design desire for luxury and tech

In late summer, car collectors converged in Monterey, Detroit and, most recently, Oxford, England, in an annual tradition focused on ogling over — and oftentimes bidding for — luxury and historic vehicles.

The outdoor luxury automotive events ruled in 2021 after a universal pause the year before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The events, which included the Goodwood Festival Speed in July, Monterey Car Week and Woodward Dream Cruise shows in August, and the Salon Privé that wrapped up Sunday, showed off more than just swooping coupes and flashy hypercars.

The crowds, which amassed despite the delta variant, and their reaction to the vehicles that lined the plush grounds at each event reflected an unbridled fever for super-luxury cars from the past — but also from the future.

“There was a pent-up demand for a live auction,” Angus Dykman, an auction specialist for Gooding & Company, said. “We had a lot of interest in the live sales. Business has been booming. People were cheering for random cars.”

Porsche 917 cars at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Credit: Getty images, photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

In this real-life setting, there was an underlying sense of urgency — both among newcomers and established brands — to show customers that their newest vehicles represent the future. The August stop in Monterey is still critical for luxury automakers to show off the designs of their next generation of models. Newcomers Rimac and Lucid Group invested in a Monterey presence, along with the legacy automakers like Bentley, Bugatti and Mercedes-Benz.

The throughline between the vintage and contemporary cars is the stunning designs, which are meant to woo new customers.

Collectors placed orders for the new editions of production cars before manufacturing had even started, all amid a microchip shortage and constrained fleets. They mingled with top executives from the brands. At least a dozen senior executives were spotted at Pebble Beach, including Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Company; Mercedes-Benz U.S. President Dimitris Psillakis; Aston Martin CEO Tobias Moers; and Lamborghini CTO Maurizio Reggiani.

Attendees view the Bugatti Automobiles SAS Bolide during The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering in Carmel, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. Image credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“It is the place to be when it comes to our luxury automotive business,” Moers said from the large stand Aston constructed overlooking the classic car show. “We see new customers here that we’ve never seen before. The brand stands for more than ever before with Formula 1.”

On display were the racy Astons of the future, with the Aston Martin Formula 1 car centerstage to the Valkyrie and Valhalla, an indicator of how Aston sees its way forward.

“It is a statement,” Moers said. “Last year everyone thought the company is done, and then Lawrence Stroll stepped in and put a lot of money in the company. We are back and we are stronger than ever before engaging with the customers.” While much of the U.K. was shut down, he hired new department heads from Bentley, Ford and Porsche.

As a new CEO who took charge during the pandemic, it was also Moers’ first time meeting his North American employees, dealers and customers.

Moers comes from Mercedes-AMG and presents as a confident executive who believes his experience in electrification gives him an edge. “Aston is an ultra-luxury business. They’d always been famous for beautiful cars. With new technologies that are available, there’s no compromise anymore,” he said.

While impressing the Pebble Beach crowd matters, he’s also focused on Aston’s business in China, and how to leverage Mercedes engineering into an expanded Aston portfolio.

“In China, you face different customers than North America, a young population of customers. You have 18 to 30s, and then the 60s upwards, and in between is not existing at the moment. The pace of China is unbelievable. When it comes to the growth of the global wealth pocket, China and Asia are going to be number one.”

For Aston, the future means electrification, rethinking the user experience in the car, and scrapping past plans to draw from the last generation Mercedes-Benz technology on the car.

“We decided not to use the infotainment, the HMI of Mercedes. If you build an HMI for the future, it must be a bit more engaging.” Instead of incorporating Mercedes MBUX infotainment, he said they’re building a new infotainment system with ART, an Italian supplier that has done work for Lamborghini and Apple. “We create our own environment. Our own ecosystem.”

Aston Martin will use Mercedes’ V8 engine technology to become more efficient to meet industry requirements as a transition to electrification.

Power, passion and tech

Pebble Beach Concour

Audi Skyphere Concept. Credit: Tamara Warren

A theme emerged among car company executives at Pebble Beach to convert to a new way of powering cars to reach compliance standards, while maintaining passion for cars among customers and attracting new ones with up-to-date in-car experiences.

No one can go it alone — the small bespoke ultra-luxury makers rely on the investments of large automakers or parent companies to supply engines and electronic platforms, which are reliant on a competitive talent pool to develop. Then these small luxury brands must push harder to be unique from the large companies.

“One of the most important and expensive developments for the past year and for the future is what is called the electronic platform,” said Lamborghini CTO Reggiani. “The electronic platform is something that no one can touch and no one can see. It’s the real nervous system of the car. This is what we try to use from the group. This allows us to use the most carryover, the systems or components that are not possible to recognize.”

Lamborghini is owned by the Volkswagen Group, and some of its chief competitors are part of the same company, including Bugatti, Bentley, Audi and Porsche.

“We take what the group can offer, but we try to be different,” he said. Lamborghini was the first auto brand to embark on an Amazon Alexa partnership, which opened doors for future thinking, he said, because customers embraced the Alexa integration. “The sound is the way to create a filter for the voice recognition. Imagine in the future, you have trouble, a lamp switches on and you ask Alexa, tell me what I need to do. I need to stop the car, I need to call the service assistant. You create artificial intelligence,” Reggiani says. He said they are working to gather data to build new ways to use sound design and voice.

But for the discerning Lamborghini customer, expensive technology must be shown in attractive designs that can’t look too dated. “Design is the first reason to purchase Lamborghini,” Reggiani says. “Design is not like in the past, but a pure design. More and more design is an integration of engineering inside aesthetics. Every single component of the car must have functionality. Aerodynamic meets cooling. Now with the arrival of PHEV, the cooling will become more and more complicated. You can imagine that battery management will be super complicated. Design must fulfill the requirements in a way that is cool.”

Tech and design in the modern era

The vintage cars at Monterey Car Week were a reminder that aerodynamics and weight distribution always ruled car design principles and pushed progress forward, particularly on cars used for motorsports. But technology and design in the modern era means speed, electrification, ADAS, and connectivity housed in a system that’s sleek and timeless. “One of the most important points is to guarantee emotion and this is a requirement,” said Reggiani.

Designing the future means communicating where it’s all going. In a world that’s moving fast, luxury automakers have their work cut out to keep up with the pace. It’s a tall order. Tesla, the automaker that wasn’t present, timed its AI announcements to overlap with the week and is still the company that everyone is chasing to electrification.

In Monterey, driving vintage cars that are immaculately cared for, available in limited quantities and therefore worth millions of dollars can be an intoxicating sport. I test-drove a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, an elegant manual-transmission roadster, along a Pacific Ocean road, which gave me a small glimpse into this hallowed world, where the price of entrance is prohibitive, especially during a pandemic.

Goodwood, Woodward and Salon Prive, which wrapped this weekend, were equally alluring. Now with the posh outdoor events in the rearview mirror, the automotive industry has shifted its gaze — for the moment — to shows solely focused on the future of transportation.

The IAA Mobility show, which kicked off this week in Munich, has so far featured a more immersive and hands-on experience as automakers try to reimagine the tired auto shows of the past. The array of electric models and concepts on display is a reminder that one thing that money can’t predict is the speed of progress.

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