Michigan State Police to begin testing Ford Mach-E Interceptors

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

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

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

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

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

Rolls-Royce’s all-electric aircraft completes 15-minute maiden voyage

Rolls-Royce, best known in aviation for its jet engines, has taken an all-electric airplane on its maiden voyage. The “Spirit of Innovation” completed a 15 minute flight, marking “the beginning of an intensive flight-testing phase in which we will be collecting valuable performance data on the aircraft’s electrical power and propulsion system,” the company announced.

Rolls Royce said the one-seat airplane has “the most power-dense battery pack every assembled for an aircraft.” The aircraft uses a 6,000 cell battery pack with a three-motor powertrain that currently delivers 400kW (500-plus horsepower), and Rolls-Royce said the aircraft will eventually achieve speeds of over 300 MPH.

The flight comes about a year after the originally scheduled takeoff and about six months after taxi trials. Rolls-Royce is also developing an air taxi with manufacturer Tecnam, with the aim of delivering an “all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market,” according to the companies. It has previously teamed with Siemens and Airbus on another e-plane concept.

Aircraft companies have been exploring electric airplanes for a number of years, as air travel and cargo accounts for an increasing amount of greenhouse gases. The World Wildlife Foundation has called it “currently the most carbon intensive activity an individual can make.”

Weight is a much bigger problem for airplanes that it is for cars, however. Ford’s all-electric Lightning pickup weighs 1,800 pounds more than the gas-powered model, and offers a range that’s slightly under half. However, if you added 1,800 pounds to to a Cessna 206 Turbo Stationair, you’d exceed its useful load by 500 pounds before you even loaded passengers (or the pilot) — so it wouldn’t even get off the ground.

The project was half funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute and UK government, with the aim of eventually creating all-electric passenger planes. “This is not only about breaking a world record; the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality,” said Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East.

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

#column, #electric-aircraft, #ev, #rolls-royce, #tc, #tceng

Equity Monday: Market pessimism, new iPhones, and IPOs

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here. I also tweet.

Vacation was good, and a big thanks to Mary Ann and Natasha — not to mention Grace and Chris! — for keeping things flowing while I mostly sat around reading books and playing video games. But enough being maudlin! To the news!

  • Investors are kinda thinking that the run-up in stocks needs to take a breather. And that the reset could land between 5% and 10%, with another 10% of respondents expecting a correction of more than 10%. Yowza.
  • China may break up Ant, keeping the pace of its regulatory deluge going as this week starts. And the Chinese government thinks that its country has too many EV companies. If the market or central planning will wind up taking point on solving the “problem” is not clear.
  • The Apple v. Epic decision is still driving conversation. Here’s TechCrunch’s coverage, and here’s the MG piece I mentioned.
  • Toast and Freshworks have new filings up. Which is good news if you want to dig into new S-1/A reports. Forge is going public via a SPAC.
  • And Babyscripts and Commercetools raised rounds, while Jungle Ventures raised a fund.

Got all that? Ok good. Chat you Wednesday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#alibaba, #ant, #babyscripts, #china, #commercetools, #equity, #equity-monday, #ev, #freshworks, #fundings-exits, #jungle-ventures, #startups, #toast

Elon Musk warns the Tesla Roadster might not ship until at least 2023

Add the Roadster to the list of delayed Tesla vehicles. On Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk said the performance EV wouldn’t make its previously announced 2022 shipment date. “2021 has been the year of super crazy supply chain shortages, so it wouldn’t matter if we had 17 new products, as none would ship,” he said in a tweet spotted by Roadshow. The executive added the Roadster should ship in 2023, “assuming 2022 is not mega drama.”

Tesla first announced its next-generation Roadster in 2017. Back then, the company expected to debut the car sometime last year. 2020 came and went without Tesla sharing much information on the supercar. Then, at the start of the year, Musk said production on the Roadster would start in 2022. Whether the car will make its new date is a big if. The global chip shortage that delayed the Tesla Semi is expected to continue until 2023, and Musk’s tweet hints at the possibility of further delays.

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

#column, #elon-musk, #ev, #roadster, #tc, #tceng, #tesla

Looking for a used EV under $20,000? Here are some ideas

shiny car for sale in summer weather, parked with a red vibrant color exterior.

Enlarge / What’s the cheapest used electric car you’d take a punt on? Let us know in the comments. (credit: Sakkawokkie/Getty Images)

When you write about cars, you can expect people to ask for your advice on which car they should buy. But when the question is actually “which used car should I buy,” many of us go quiet; driving an ever-rotating string of low-mileage new models leaves you unprepared to comment on long-term reliability or the like. Last week, a friend posed an even harder variant, asking for suggestions for a used plug-in electric vehicle. And my default suggestion of a sub-$20,000 BMW i3 wasn’t going to cut it.

As luck would have it, I noticed that Kelley Blue Book—which does keep track of things like long-term reliability and depreciation—just published a list of its best affordable used hybrids and EVs for 2021, with top-10 lists for cars that cost less than $15,000 as well as those under $20,000.

As you might expect at those price points, the lists are dominated by parallel hybrids like the Toyota Prius. No Teslas, I’m afraid—the cheapest used Model 3 that shows up in a brief search this morning still costs $28,000, and the rest all had prices that started with a three. But some battery EVs do make the KBB’s top-10 list.

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#bmw-i3, #cars, #chevrolet-bolt-ev, #chevrolet-volt, #electric-cars, #ev, #kelley-blue-book, #mitsubishi-i-miev, #toyota-prius, #used-cars

Foxconn plans to build EV factories in the US and Thailand in 2022

Foxconn is getting more serious about its electric vehicle ambitions. The company told investors during an earnings call that it plans to build EV factories in the US and Thailand in 2022 and start mass producing vehicles the following year. Chairman Liu Young-way said the company is also in talks regarding possible locations for plants in Europe.

At its US facility, Foxconn will build vehicles for EV clients including Fisker. The companies signed a deal in May, and Foxconn plans to start making Fisker EVs by the end of 2023. The two are jointly investing in the Project Pear vehicle and will share revenue from it.

Foxconn is in discussions with three states, including Wisconsin, for the EV plant, according to Nikkei. Earlier this year, Foxconn drastically scaled back plans for its existing facility in Wisconsin. Liu has also suggested Foxconn may build EVs at the controversial plant.

The planned Thai factory will form part of Foxconn’s joint venture with oil and gas conglomerate PTT. The two are working on a platform for EV and component production. Liu said Foxconn plans to build up to 200,000 EVs at that plant each year.

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

#column, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #evs, #fisker, #foxconn, #tc, #tceng

No EV tax credit if you earn more than $100,000, says US Senate

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) departs the US Capitol at dawn after an overnight session of the US Senate on August 11, 2021, in Washington, DC. Sen. Kelly was one of three Democratic Senators who voted to gut the plug-in vehicle tax credit.

Enlarge / Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) departs the US Capitol at dawn after an overnight session of the US Senate on August 11, 2021, in Washington, DC. Sen. Kelly was one of three Democratic Senators who voted to gut the plug-in vehicle tax credit. (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, the US Senate passed an amendment that would limit the plug-in vehicle federal tax credit. Currently, tax payers are eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500 based on the size of the vehicle’s battery for the first 200,000 plug-in vehicles from a given automaker. But Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced a non-binding amendment to the $3.5 trillion budget bill that would means-test this tax credit, restricting it to tax payers with incomes below $100,000.

Perhaps more significantly, Sen. Fischer’s amendment also restricts the tax credit to EVs that cost less than $40,000. Consequently, the only battery EVs that will still be eligible for the tax credit will be the Hyundai Ioniq Electric ($34,250), Hyundai Kona EV ($38,565), Mini Cooper SE ($30,750), and the Nissan Leaf S Plus ($39,220). Chevrolet’s Bolt EV and Bolt EUV are both below the price threshold, but in 2019 the automaker sold its 200,000th plug-in vehicle, at which point the tax credit began to phase out.

The amendment passed, 51-48. Senator Fischer took to Twitter to say that “everyday Americans are living paycheck to paycheck because of the sharp rise in costs due to #Bideninflation. We shouldn’t be subsidizing luxury vehicles for the rich using money from hard-working taxpayers.” (Inflation is mostly being driven by high prices for used cars, which in turn is a result of the chip shortage.)

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#cars, #climate-change, #ev, #federal-tax-credit, #plug-in-vehicle, #us-senate

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

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

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

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

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

GM recalls Bolt EVs once again over fire risks

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

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

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

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

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

The rise of robotaxis in China

AutoX, Momenta and WeRide took the stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to discuss the state of robotaxi startups in China and their relationships with local governments in the country.

They also talked about overseas expansion — a common trajectory for China’s top autonomous vehicle startups — and shed light on the challenges and opportunities for foreign AV companies eyeing the massive Chinese market.


Enterprising governments

Worldwide, regulations play a great role in the development of autonomous vehicles. In China, policymaking for autonomous driving is driven from the bottom up rather than a top-down effort by the central government, observed executives from the three Chinese robotaxi startups.

Huan Sun, Europe general manager at Momenta, which is backed by the government of Suzhou, a city near Shanghai, said her company had a “very good experience” working with the municipal governments across multiple cities.

In China, each local government is incentivized to really act like entrepreneurs like us. They are very progressive in developing the local economy… What we feel is that autonomous driving technology can greatly improve and upgrade the [local governments’] economic structure. (Time stamp: 02:56)

Shenzhen, a special economic zone with considerable lawmaking autonomy, is just as progressive in propelling autonomous driving forward, said Jewel Li, chief operation officer at AutoX, which is based in the southern city.

#adas, #aptiv, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #av, #china, #early-stage-2021, #ec-mobility-hardware, #ec-techcrunch-mobility, #ev, #robotaxi, #saic, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #techcrunch-mobility-event-2021, #transportation, #waymo

We got our first ride in the electric Lucid Air sedan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has four wheels and loses money?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is our Wednesday show, where we niche down to a single topic and go deep. This time Natasha and Alex corralled TechCrunch transportation editor Kirsten Korosec to talk to us about the endless parade of EV SPACs, and more. Before we get into the show notes, you can follow Equity on Twitter here.

And, because we are proud, we won a Webby! Our show! How cool is that? Thank you for love listening, hate listening, all of it. We are so thankful.

Ok, here’s what we talked about:

  • Why is every electric vehicle company going public via a SPAC, and why is there so much potential fraud in the space? Kirsten has some notes on the matter, but it boils down to money in both cases.
  • The Bird-SPAC deal in all its glory. You can read Alex and Kirsten’s dive into the Bird investor deck here. We had questions like why was the shared scooter model ever considered viable, and, how did the company improve its economics during a pandemic? The SPAC world never, ever disappoints.
  • Of course, we couldn’t resist talking about the scooter barrage of news from years ago and how things have changed since.
  • We end with her latest scoop, a series of exits at Waymo, and what that means for the future of the autonomous vehicle company. Plus, we didn’t get to make a joke about it in the show but let’s just say: Waymo has a waymore to go before it has driverless tech all over the streets.
  • And one more thing: Kirsten gives a look at some of the speakers at our upcoming mobility event. Snag tickets here, and subscribe to her newsletter, The Station, for all things mobility every week.

And that’s that! We are back with our regular weekly news rundown Friday morning. Chat you all then!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#bird, #canoo, #equity, #equity-podcast, #ev, #fundings-exits, #nikola, #spac, #startups, #tc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If 12% is the new 30%, 4% is the new 12%

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

The whole team was aboard for this recording, with Grace and Chris behind the scenes, and Danny, Alex, and Natasha on the mics. We had to cut more than we included this week, which should give you a good idea of how busy the startup and VC worlds are of late.

Make sure that you are following the podcast on Twitter, where we post all sorts of memes and cuts and, perhaps, the occasional video here and there. That aside, here’s the rundown:

  • Investing legend David Swenson passed away.
  • Twitter is buying Scroll (neat, very cool) as part of its subscription push, but also killing Nuzzel in the process (bad, very uncool). Natasha and Danny fill us in on why Nuzzel will be missed. Alex has thoughts on why Twitter-Scroll is good.
  • Epic bought ArtStation and cut its marketplace take rate. This is the future, says Danny, who throws his own estimates in, too.
  • Sony and Discord are tying up after the Microsoft-Discord deal fell apart.
  • Edtech is doing the edtech thing in which it raises money and consolidates, as shown by Kahoot’s latest scoop.
  • A friend of the pod, Jomayra Herrera, is joining Reach Capital as its first ever outside-partner hire.
  • Uber is teaming up with Arrival for ride-hailing designed electric vehicles. We’re pretty bullish on the idea. Also Alex likes to say “microfactories.”
  • IVF startups are raising venture capital, and this time its Alife Health that we’re talking about. 
  • WorkBoard raised again. Alex once again made us talk about OKR-focused startups. He needs to get a life, and so does the rest of the Equity team which fought to do the transition into this segment.
  • To end, we spoke about Leda Health, a new startup focused on at-home rape kits for sexual assault survivors. It’s a controversial company, and we discuss critiques and opportunities,

And that’s our show! No private equity deal can slow the Equity team down, so we’ll see you Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#alife-health, #arrival, #clever, #discord, #early-stage, #edtech, #electric-vehicles, #epic, #epic-games, #equity, #equity-podcast, #ev, #kahoot, #leda-health, #microsoft, #nuzzel, #okr, #reach-capital, #scroll, #sony, #tc, #twitter, #uber, #venture-capital, #workboard

EV automaker Rivian partners with Samsung SDI in battery cell supply deal

Rivian, the Amazon-backed EV manufacturer aiming to bring an electric pickup to market later this year, has partnered with Samsung SDI as its battery cell supplier, the company said Monday.

The two companies did not disclose the value of the deal or its term length, but in a statement released Monday Rivian said it had been working with Samsung SDI “throughout the vehicle development process.”

Rivian pointed out that its anticipated R1T pickup and R1S SUV, which Rivian calls “adventure vehicles,” require a battery module and pack that can handle extreme temperatures and durability use cases.

South Korea-based Samsung SDI already supplies battery cells to other automakers. In 2019, the company signed a $3.2 billion deal with BMW Group for a 10-year supply agreement.

“We’re excited about the performance and reliability of Samsung SDI battery cells combined with our energy-dense module and pack design,” Rivian CEO Rj Scaringe said in a statement. “Samsung SDI’s focus on innovation and responsible sourcing of battery materials aligns well with our vision.”

#automotive, #battery, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #mobility, #transportation

ABB and AWS team up to create an EV fleet management platform

Swiss automation and technology company ABB has announced a collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a cloud-based EV fleet management platform that it hopes will hasten the electrification of fleets. The platform, which the company says will help operators maintain business continuity as they switch to electric, will roll out in the second half of 2021.

This announcement comes after a wave of major delivery companies pledged to electrify their fleets. Amazon already has a number of Rivian-sourced electric delivery vans on the streets of California and plans to have 10,000 more operational by this year; UPS ordered 10,000 electric vans from Arrival for its fleet; 20% of DHL’s fleet is already electric; and FedEx plans to electrify its entire fleet by 2040. A 2020 McKinsey report predicted commercial and passenger fleets in the U.S. could include as many as eight million EVs by 2030, compared with fewer than 5,000 in 2018. That’s about 10 to 15% of all fleet vehicles.

“We want to make EV adoption easier and more scalable for fleets,” Frank Muehlon, president of ABB’s e-mobility division, told TechCrunch. “To power progress, the industry must bring together the best minds and adopt an entrepreneurial approach to product development.” 

ABB brings experience in e-mobility solutions, energy management and charging technology to the table, which will combine with AWS’s cloud and software to make a single-view platform that can be tailored to whichever company is using it. Companies will be able to monitor things like charge planning, EV maintenance status, and route optimization based on the time of day, weather and use patterns. Muehlon said they’ll work with customers to explore ways to use existing data from fleets for faster implementation.

The platform will be hosted on the AWS cloud, which means that it can scale anywhere AWS is available, which so far includes in 25 regions globally.

The platform will be hardware-agnostic, meaning any type of EV or charger can work with it. Integration of software into specific EV fleets will depend on the fleet’s level of access to third-party asset management systems and onboard EV telematics, but the platform will support a layered feature approach, wherein each layer provides more accurate vehicle data. Muehlon says this makes for a more seamless interface than existing third-party charging management software, which don’t have the technology or the flexibility to work with the total breadth of EV models and charging infrastructure. 

“Not only do fleet managers have to contend with the speed of development in charging technology, but they also need real-time vehicle and charging status information, access to charging infrastructures and information for hands-on maintenance,” said Muehlon. “This new real-time EV fleet management solution will set new standards in the world of electric mobility for global fleet operators and help them realize improved operations.”

This software is aimed at depot and commercial fleets, as well as public infrastructure fleets. Muehlon declined to specify any specific EV operators or customers lined up to use this new technology, but he did say there are “several pilots underway” which will “enable us to ensure that we are developing market-ready solutions for all kinds of fleets.” 

#abb, #amazon, #amazon-web-services, #automotive, #aws, #electric-delivery-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #logistics, #shipping, #transportation

EV makers oppose delay to automotive emissions penalty increase

Electric vehicle manufacturers are pushing back against a decision to delay penalty increases for automakers who fail to meet fuel efficiency standards.

A lobbying group representing legacy automakers – many of whom are now making substantial investments in zero-emissions vehicles – said the increase would have a significant economic impact during a time when the industry is facing mass disruption from the COVID pandemic. But new EV entrants say the penalty mechanism is a powerful performance incentive to decrease tailpipe emissions and encourage investment in lower- or zero-emissions technology.  

The decision, issued in January by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), postpones imposing a penalty increase from the beginning of model year 2019 to model year 2022. Tesla is petitioning the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to review the ruling, saying that the delay “inflicts ongoing, irreparable injury” on the company and creates an “uneven playing field” by reducing the consequences of non-adherence.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) penalty has been increased just once – from $5 to $5.50 for every 0.1 mile per gallon that doesn’t meet the standard – since its instatement in 1975. Congress acted to rectify the effects of inflation on the penalty by raising it to $14 in 2015, but NHTSA and the courts have ping-ponged about the increase ever since. A decision from the Second Circuit last August seemed to settle the issue in favor of instating the higher penalty starting with model year 2019, but automakers last October successfully petitioned that the increase be delayed.

The CAFE penalty can be a huge boon for zero emissions automakers, who receive credits that they can then sell to other OEMs who fail to meet the fuel efficiency target. In a recent report to regulators, Tesla said it earned $1.58 billion from selling regulatory credits to other automakers in 2020, up from $594 million in 2019. Delaying the increase harms companies that have made economic decisions on the basis of an increase to the credit, Tesla said.  

EV start-ups Rivian and Lucid Motors told TechCrunch they also oppose any delay to increasing the CAFE penalty.

“The credit market is very beneficial for the entire EV industry, so every company that is looking to start building EVs, either as a startup or the existing manufacturers, when they build EVs it’s to their benefit to have robust credits,” Kevin Vincent, Lucid Motor’s Associate General Counsel, told TechCrunch. “A lot of existing manufacturers end up selling credits themselves, so it benefits the forward-thinking companies that are improving fuel economy.”

James Chen, Rivian’s VP of Public Policy and Chief Regulatory Counsel, said in a statement to TechCrunch that any rollback of the CAFE or other emission standard “only sets the U.S. backwards in terms of emission reductions ([greenhouse gas] and criteria pollutants), increased fuel efficiency, reduction of dependence on foreign oil, technology leadership and EV proliferation.” He added that the company “strongly supports efforts to bolster EV adoption that includes more stringent emission standards and higher penalties for failure to meet those standards.”

NHTSA postponed the increase on the grounds that the penalty should not be retroactively applied to model years that had already been manufactured. As manufacturers have no way to increase the fuel economy level in these vehicles, “it would be inappropriate to apply the adjustment to model years that could have no deterrence effect and promote no additional compliance with the law,” NHTSA said.

Automakers, in a petition filed by the lobbying group Alliance for Automotive Innovation and in supplemental comments, also cited economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mercedes-Benz told NHTSA that the pandemic caused disruptions to its supply chain, workforce and production.

“We believe that retroactively applying an increased penalty rate in such a tenuous financial climate is unconscionable and inconsistent with this Administration’s efforts to promote regulatory relief in light of the economic consequences of COVID-19,” the automaker said.

Tesla maintained in its court filing that relying on the COVID pandemic “falls flat” in the absence of specific evidence as to why it warrants the delay.  

Attorney generals from 16 states, including California and New York, as well as environmental groups Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have also objected to the delay.

The NHTSA decision was issued in docket no. NHTSA-2021-0001. Tesla filed with the second circuit under case no. 21-593.

#automotive, #electric-cars, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #lucid-motors, #national-highway-traffic-safety-administration, #rivian, #tesla, #transportation

Electric vans are all the rage at DHL, UPS—maybe even USPS, too

Electrifying commercial fleets of vehicles makes even more sense than trying to persuade individual private citizens to switch to electric vehicles. After all, if you convince your neighbor to buy an EV, that’s one more EV on the road, but a single decision to electrify a commercial fleet can replace dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of internal combustion engine-powered vehicles.

Take DHL Express, for example. After a successful trial of nine electric Transit 350HD vans from Lightning eMotors, this week the courier company announced it will deploy another 89 electric vans to New York and California this year.

“We’re aiming to improve the lives of people where they live and work, using clean pickup and delivery solutions—such as electric vehicles and cargo cycles—for our first- and last-mile services,” said DHL Express US CEO Greg Hewitt. “With the successful deployment of the first nine pilot vehicles, we are excited to expand our electric delivery van footprint and continue to drive forward our corporate roadmap to decarbonization.”

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#arrival, #cars, #delivery-vehicles, #dhl-express, #electric-van, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #lighting-emotors, #ups, #usps

Volkswagen will bring 240 gigawatt hours of battery production capacity to Europe by 2030

Volkswagen AG is gearing up to seize the top spot as the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer with plans announced Monday to have six 40 Gigawatt hour (GWh) battery cell production plants in operation in Europe by 2030.

To get there, the automaker put in a 10-year, $14 billion order with Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt – and that’s only one of the six planned factories. A second plant in Germany will commence production in 2025.

The company also announced serious investments in charging infrastructure across China, Europe and the United States. It aims to grow its fast-charging network in Europe to 18,000 stations with its partner IONITY, 17,000 charging points in China through its joint venture CAMS New Energy Technology, and to increase the number of fast-charging stations in the United States by 3,500.

The company’s first dedicated battery event, a clear nod to Tesla’s Battery Day, also included a deep dive into novel battery chemistries that will reduce costs by up to 50%. The cell also paves the way for the transition to a solid-state battery cell, which the company anticipates for the middle of the decade. VW has made significant investments in solid-state battery manufacturer QuantumScape.

Volkswagen’s new Unified Premium Battery platform will be rolled out in 2023 and will be used across 80 percent of its EV models. The first to contain the new battery, the Audi Artemis, will be rolled out in 2024.

Scania AB, VW’s brand of heavy-duty trucks and busses, also has plans to increase its share of EVs. Departing from other major heavy-duty players that have opted for hydrogen fuel cells, company representatives on Monday said that it is unequivocally possible to electrify the heavy-duty transportation sector.

Looking to the battery’s end-of-life, VW said it will be able to recycle up to 95% of the battery through a process called hydrometallury.

#audi, #automotive, #batteries, #battery-technology, #charging-station, #china, #electric-vehicle, #europe, #ev, #fuel-cells, #germany, #lithium-ion-battery, #rechargeable-batteries, #tc, #tesla, #united-states

Audi’s all-electric Q4 e-tron crossover will have a dynamic AR windshield display

Along with a more spacious cockpit, more storage and some upgraded cupholders, Audi has packed in some serious new tech into its upcoming all-electric Q4 e-tron compact crossover, including an augmented reality heads-up display (HUD) that’s reactive enough to accurately stick to a driver’s real environment. 

Audi revealed Tuesday the interior of the Q4 e-tron, the fifth electric vehicle in its lineup and part of the German automaker’s plan to launch more than 30 EVs and plug-in hybrids by 2025. The Q4 e-tron has been expected for some time; it was first revealed as a concept at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show.

The exterior of the production version of the Q4 is still camouflaged, but we know its dimensions. The takeaway: an electric vehicle that fits in the larger compact SUV segment with a short overhang and wheelbase of 9.1 feet — a combination that gives it a rather stout look. However, that allows for an interior of 6 feet in length, the kind of space found in a large full-size class SUV.

The underlying architecture of the vehicle is based on its parent company VW’s modular electric drive toolkit chassis, or MEB platform. This flexible modular system, first introduced by VW in 2016, was developed to make it more efficient and cost-effective to produce a variety of EVs. It has also given designers more room to play with thanks to the flat floor. And they took advantage of that space, popping in center console with two cup holders, a 4.4-liter stowage compartment with a cover, two (or four as an option) USB-C sockets, and the Audi phone box (which charges wireless and boosts your phone’s signal) upon request.

Head-up-Display

The real story here is the tech – and most notably an option to add an AR-enabled windshield. The AR windshield provides a wider field of view, and more accurate and dynamic animations vs. a standard windshield HUD. The Q4 e-tron will break down important displayed information via two sections: one for status, and one for AR. The former, appearing about 3 meters ahead of the driver, will display the driving speed, traffic signs, the assist system and navigation symbols as static displays. 

With the AR section, the driver will perceive the floating symbols to be about 10 meters away. That’ll display information like lane departure warnings that superimpose a red line on the real-life lane marking, and a colored stripe over an active car driving in front when in adaptive cruise control.

“Heads up displays aren’t new,” states Audi. “This just takes the field of vision farther out so it enables more active use.”

The AR will also display navigation information. Audi calls the turning arrows “drones,” probably because the arrows fly ahead when driving straight and then disappear, reappearing before the next point of action. When the driver approaches an intersection, the drone announces the turn before steering the driver onto the road with precision.

Head-up-Display

On the software side of things, the Q4 e-tron’s processing unit, called the AR Creator, picks up raw data from the car’s front camera, radar sensor and GPS navigation to render display symbols at a rate of 60 frames per second and adapt them to the surrounding environment. The quality of these displays, shown via a bit of advanced smoke and mirrors on what Audi calls the EV’s ‘picture generation unit (PGU)’ – basically, a lot of mirrors – will obviously be key to how well it works in real life. With only simulations to show for it currently, it’s not clear how well Audi will pull this off. A wider frame with dynamic symbols must deliver on its promise to show up “just as clearly as their real-life environment” otherwise they’ll become a hindrance to the driver, and if they don’t pull off the depth effect exactly, they could even cause driver discomfort.

The Q4 e-tron also features updated natural-language voice control, activated by saying “Hey Audi.” The new car will also ditch physical buttons on the steering wheel in favor of touch-sensitive ones, but with a haptic feedback loop, it’ll still feel somewhat like you’re pressing a button. 

About 3% of the company’s sales in 2020, or 47,000 vehicles, were the electric e-tron SUV and the e-tron Sportback, a number that will surely increase as the company continues to roll out luxury EVs. 

#ar, #audi, #augmented-reality, #automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #hud, #transportation

Polestar, ChargePoint introduce seamless charging in new partnership

A new alliance between Swedish electric performance automaker Polestar and EV infrastructure startup ChargePoint takes aim at the charging experience with the debut of an in-car app that will let customers seamlessly charge their Polestar 2 model vehicles.

Seamless charging—being able to pull up to a charging station, plug in and let the vehicle handle billing and payment—has been dominated by Tesla through its branded Supercharger network. Most other EV drivers have to pay for charging using an RFID card or smartphone, and the convenience level is on-par with a traditional gas station. The partnership eliminates the need for these extra items at ChargePoint’s more than 130,000 stations. The app will embed directly into Polestar 2’s in-car “infotainment system,” which runs on Google’s Android Automotive OS.

There have been some inroads into seamless charging elsewhere, most notably by Electrify America, the entity established by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel-emissions scandal. It introduced an in-car payment technology dubbed Plug&Charge last November that will allow 2021 models of the Porsche Taycan, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Lucid Air to seamlessly charge at its stations.

The partnership also takes aim at the buying experience, another area that Tesla’s cornered with its branded Wall Connector home charger. Polestar 2 drivers will now be able to order the $699 ChargePoint Home Flex home charger alongside the purchase of a Polestar 2 and arrange for home installation prior to vehicle delivery.

It’s a blueprint for future collaboration between the two companies, ChargePoint senior VP Bill Loewenthal said in a statement. The partnerships may be the start of many more alliances between automakers and EV infrastructure companies who see user experience as a key part of their value proposition.

#android, #automotive, #cars, #chargepoint, #charging-stations, #ecotality, #electric-vehicles, #electrify-america, #ev, #ford, #gas-station, #greentech, #li-auto, #mobility, #mustang, #polestar, #smartphone, #tc, #tesla, #transport, #transportation, #united-states

GM, LG Chem studying the feasibility of a second battery cell plant in the U.S.

General Motors is exploring building a second U.S. battery cell manufacturing plant with its joint-venture partner Seoul, South Korea-based LG Chem.

If the plant moves forward, it would be the latest in a series of investments aimed at building out the auto giant’s portfolio of electric vehicles. The company’s joint venture with LG, Ultium Cells LLC, is already at work constructing a $2.3 billion battery cell manufacturing facility in Lordstown, Ohio.

The companies hope to have a decision on the factory in the first half of 2021, GM spokesman Dan Flores told TechCrunch. He declined to specify possible locations for the site but Tennessee is high on the list, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal.

GM has set ambitious targets for decarbonizing its operations and pledged steep investments to get there. Through 2025 alone the company said it would bring thirty EV models across its brands to the global market and spend $27 billion on electrification and automated technology—a 35% increase from 2020 spending. By the mid-2030s, GM said its fleet will be all-EV.

“Clearly, with our commitment to an all-electric future, we will need a lot of battery cells,” Flores said.

He declined to comment on the ongoing shortage of battery cells, which has affected EV manufacturers Tesla and Nikola. President Joe Biden issued an executive order at the end of February instructing federal agencies to identify risks in the supply chains for batteries, semiconductors, and other critical items, including where supply chains are dependent on “competitor nations.”

GM CEO Mary Barra said in a virtual investor presentation last week that the battery shortage is one reason the company is investing in its own battery cell manufacturing. She alluded to plans to grow the company’s battery cell manufacturing operations but did not go into specifics.

“There’s more coming than we’ve announced already,” she said.

#automotive, #ceo, #electric-mobility, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #engines, #ev, #executive, #general-motors, #joe-biden, #lg, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-batteries, #mary-barra, #mobility, #nikola, #ohio, #president, #semiconductors, #seoul, #south-korea, #supply-chains, #tc, #tennessee, #tesla, #the-wall-street-journal, #united-states

As important as the Beetle? Two days with Volkswagen’s electric ID.4

The Volkswagen ID.4 is a big deal for its manufacturer. After getting busted six years ago for fibbing about diesel emissions, VW underwent a corporate transformation, throwing all its chips into electrification. As a big believer in modular architectures that it can use to build a wide range of vehicles from a common set of parts, it got to work on a new architecture just for battery electric vehicles, called MEB (Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukasten or Modular Electrification Toolkit).

Since then, we’ve seen a dizzying array of MEB-based concepts, including that electric bus that everyone wants, and even a bright green buggy. But the ID.4 is no mere concept. It’s the first production MEB vehicle to go on sale here in the US, designed with the crossover-crazy US market firmly in mind. Last September we got our first good look at the ID.4 in under studio lights in Brooklyn, and a month later, Ars got to spend 45 minutes on the road with a pre-production ID.4. But now we’ve had two full days in a model year 2021 ID.4 1st Edition, getting to know it on local turf.

Volumetrically, it’s about the same size as a Toyota RAV4 or VW Tiguan: 181 inches (4,585mm) long, 73 inches wide (1,852mm), and 64 inches tall (1,637mm), with a 109-inch (2,766mm) wheelbase. Depending on the angle it can be quite a handsome shape. That’s helped by the way the 1st Edition’s aerodynamic 20-inch alloy wheels fill their arches helps convince the brain that the car is smaller than it actually is, as well as the designer’s trick of making bits disappear by cladding them in glossy black panels.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bev, #car-review, #cars, #crossover, #electric-car, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #features, #volkswagen-id-4

Ford to go all electric in Europe by 2030

Ford today announced a new strategy for the European market that aims the automaker at primarily only selling electric vehicles by 2030. To do so, Ford intends to spend $1 billion to revamp a factory in Cologne, Germany, where it will produce EVs using a Volkswagen platform. The first production vehicle from the updated factory is expected by 2023.

Stuart Rowley, president of Ford of Europe, made the announcement today during an online news conference.

This new strategy involves phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles in favor of electric power. The automaker expects to have all commercial vehicles made by Ford in Europe be electric by 2024. Two years later, it expects to have converted its entire lineup into electric or plug-in hybrids. Gasoline-powered commercial vehicles will still be offered for sale in Europe after 2030, Ford says. However, the automaker currently sees electric models accounting for two-thirds of its European sales.

Ford’s announcement comes after a similar pledge from General Motors where the automaker said it intended to mostly produce EVs by 2035. Both Ford and General Motors are small players in the European market where GM has all but pulled out, and Ford only has a 5% market share.

#ev, #evs, #ford, #general-motors, #gm, #tc

A look at the soaring valuations of Rivian and Cruise with transportation VC Reilly Brennan

Reilly Brennan loves cars. The native Michigander happily did grunt work for an automotive magazine as an undergrad at the University of Michigan before landing a gig as a trackside communications manager at General Motors, spending a few years as an editor and a general manager with an automotive publisher called NextScreen, then becoming a programming director for AOL’s automotive properties.

His next role would be on the West Coast, as executive director of an automotive research program at Stanford, where Brennan continues to be a lecturer. Little surprise that soon after, a seed-stage fund began to make sense, too, and thus was born Trucks Venture Capital, which has since made dozens of bets out of a $20 million debut effort and is wrapping up a larger fund soon.

Late last week, we talked with Brennan about two of the fastest-soaring valuations we’ve seen recently in automotive sector: that of the electric vehicle company Rivian, which raised a giant new round last week at a nearly $30 billion post-money valuation, and Cruise Automation, which also raised a giant new round last week, and also at $30 billion valuation. (Along with some other interesting bets, Trucks managed to write an early check for Cruise before it was acquired in 2016 by GM, which maintains majority ownership of the company.) We wondered if even an auto aficionado might deem things a little bubbly.

You can listen to that full conversation here. In the meantime, the excerpts below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

TC: Who are your investors in Trucks VC? Are they individuals? Are any auto manufacturers that are trying to get a look at nascent technologies?

RB: We have some former execs from the car industry in the tech world, and a handful of family offices and definitely some large strategic companies. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you their names because I’ve signed documents that prevent me from doing that. But one of the cool things about our little Rolodex of [limited partners] is that our founders — when they want to come in and do something in transportation — it’s an easy doggie door into a lot of those entities, whether they’re people or businesses. One of the things I love about [the mix is] there’s probably no part of a vehicle, whether you’re talking about a car, truck, a bike, or a plane, that one of our investors couldn’t help out with.

TC: Do you look to be the first money into your deals?

RB: One of the interesting learnings I had in the first fund was, we were just trying to participate; we were just happy to be at the party. So we were participating in rounds that other people were leading, and our checks [from Fund I] were anywhere from $100,000 to a few thousand dollars.

The new fund is designed to take advantage of leading rounds [because] halfway through our first fund, founders would ask us to lead rounds, and frankly, the fund wasn’t big enough to do that. Our new fund is really designed so we can lead seed rounds, and that’s what we do. We’ll lead or co-lead and sit on the board. Usually, we’re  owning about 10% to 12% of a company at seed.

TC: One of Truck’s early checks went to Cruise, the self-driving car company that GM acquired for an amount that has variously been reported as more than $1 billion, as well as for closer to $500 million . . .

RB: The Cruise investment, my [fellow general partners] Jeff and Kate made. I can’t tell you specifically what the acquisition price was, but it was pretty good. That being said, if you read about the valuation of Cruise now within General Motors, or that of another [self-driving] company we invested in, Nutonomy, which was acquired by [automotive supplier] Delphi [for $450 million in 2017] and is now essentially a company called Motional, they’re pretty high.

I think a lot about those early exits because they validated the space, but I also think a lot of the early investors probably wish they had more ownership. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have sold. But you look at the valuation of Cruise and Motional today — if you put those two entities together — it’s more than the valuation of General Motors, or maybe Ford Motor Company.

TC: But is Cruise’s valuation perhaps too high right now? They still have a very long lead time to making money.

RB: I would agree with you that in the public market, it feels a little bubbly when it comes to electric vehicles and some of these ideas related to technology and auto. But I do think a lot of these companies look at the opportunity to automate things greater than just robo-taxis. Last year in particular provided good insight into how the logistics and delivery part of automation is probably on the nearer term horizon than robo-taxis and therefore more valuable.

TC: How much have valuations been driven up by Tesla, whose valuation now dwarfs all the major car manufacturers?

RB: One of the things the market appears to want is the simple story, and belief in Tesla is now highly aligned to [thinking that] this is just the way that transportation is going to be organized. It’s going to be a zero-emission vehicle that is highly connected and maybe attached to a consumer in a new way.

You’re seeing the same with a lot of these pure-play EV companies, whether it’s [carmaker] Fisker doing a SPAC or the way that [carmaker] Neo is received in China. There’s this purity of their message.

You can argue, successfully, that a lot of other companies have more engineering or a greater dealer network or more IP around a particular idea, but when it comes to the public market stuff, it really is about painting the picture in this one specific way that’s aligned with the future. And right now, the public markets really don’t like that composite, liberal arts approach to vehicle manufacturing; they really just want one thing that aligns very well with the future, which they believe is better electric vehicles.

TC: This seemingly applies to the Detroit carmaker Rivian. What do you think of this company that’s valued at nearly $30 billion yet hasn’t yet sold a truck or SUV? You aren’t one of its investor. Does its valuation make sense to you?

RB: From an engineering perspective, Rivian is probably one of the companies I respect most out of this new breed of manufacturers.

Tens years ago, when they started, there were a lot of new supercar entrepreneurs who were trying to start something new, but they were always small batch ideas. Like, maybe you could get 100 people to buy one. But they weren’t really well-aligned with what consumers were buying, which is increasingly utilities and trucks. So Rivian’s approach, with the segment it’s going after, is really smart, and it has fantastic engineering. So I’m actually quite bullish on Rivian.

In a year’s time, there will probably be two big events for Rivian. One, they will deliver the first batch of [electric delivery vans being built for investor] to Amazon, along with [other orders] to some of the early customers. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they’re public at some point in the next year.
They haven’t told me that; just my own personal speculation here.

TC: When you say it will go public, do you mean through a traditional IPO or maybe through a giant SPAC? Would what you guess?

I bet that Rivian will probably do a traditional IPO, that’s my guess. But they could also do a SPAC at some point. [Either way] I think the public markets are going to be really interested in Rivian. I just think there’s really good stuff there.

TC: Have you been able to test-drive its cars? Have you seen its tech up close? What makes you so confident that what Rivian is building is superior?

RB: I think the point of view they have about the segments is really interesting In the U.S., they are going after two great-growing segments in the business, which is utilities and trucks where, by the way, there’s a lot of margin, and there’s nobody specifically going after those segments.

The Rivian engineering that I speak about is really about the hires they’ve made and a lot of things they’ve done for years in advance of getting these vehicles ready. They’ve got a lot of amazing talent from big manufacturers. They made an unusual but really smart investment in a vehicle assembly facility that they purchased for relatively cheap years ago that was owned by Mitsubishi. And they put together all these components well in advance of anybody really even knowing about them, which is really smart.

Obviously, there’s still a huge amount of risk. What I’m saying is not investment advice. I just think there’s a lot of interesting stuff there that’s head and shoulders above many of the other EV companies, where there’s not a lot of substance, to be candid.

TC: My colleague Kirsten reported in December that Rivian is developing a network of charging stations along interstate highways and also at spots like hiking trails to accommodate who it imagines will be its customers. Does that make sense to you? Relatedly, how many different types of charging stations are we going to have in the world?

[Regarding the location of its stations], it’s definitely a nice ingredient in the story they’re trying to tell, though I don’t think you’ll see a Rivian charger at the entry point of every national park. They’ll probably have access to other charging networks. One of the things we’re seeing in the U.S. is you have some of these dedicated networks like Tesla has, and then you have a lot of agnostic [stations], where you can plug in and charge in a lot of other places, and Rivian will likely take advantage of that. An open question would be whether Rivian builds its own [larger] dedicated network that has a lot of coverage, and I don’t know about that yet.

The other component about Rivian that’s really fascinating is what they do for service and maintenance. I saw an open job that Rivian had a few months ago around remote diagnostics, and one of the bullet points of the job posting was that this job was really designed so that people didn’t have to go back to the dealership. [It begs the question of]: could you design experiences digitally,  as with [on-demand remote doctor visits], where you could potentially talk to somebody live, you could [have Rivian] assess the vehicle, or maybe walk you through a situation where you can fix something that would prevent a lot of the trips to dealer?

If you consider the traditional dealer and OEM relationship, a lot of the ways that cars are designed is that they’re constantly having to go back to the dealer. Rivian’s point of view on that is really different, and that’s one of the other reasons it’s one to watch.

#automotive, #cruise-automation, #ev, #motional, #rivian, #tc, #tesla, #trucks-venture-capital

Everything we know about Hyundai and Kia’s new electric vehicle platform

It would be inaccurate to describe the Korean auto industry as firing on all cylinders, if only because it’s also really good at making electric vehicles, and those don’t have cylinders that fire. The electric versions of the Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul, and Kia Niro are about the only battery EVs to approach the range efficiency of class-leading Tesla, and it makes a pretty fine hydrogen fuel cell EV as well.

On Tuesday, Hyundai Motor Group (which owns Hyundai and Kia, as well as Genesis) showed us what comes next. It’s called E-GMP, and it’s the group’s new modular BEV platform for bigger vehicles (analogous to Volkswagen Group’s PPE architecture). Hyundai Motor Group has big plans for E-GMP—a million vehicle split over 23 new models by 2025, with the first two hitting showrooms sometime in 2021.

The tech specs are similarly impressive: an all-800V electrical architecture; bi-directional charging; DC fast charging to 80 percent in 18 minutes; and a WLTP range of 500km (310 miles).

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bev, #cars, #e-gmp, #ev, #genesis, #hyundai, #hyundai-motor-group, #ioniq, #kia, #lithium-ion-batteries

Alibaba vies for a piece of China’s booming EV market

There’s no lack of news these days on China’s tech giants teaming up with traditional carmakers. Companies from Alibaba to Huawei are striving to become relevant in the trillion-dollar auto industry, which itself is seeking an electric transition and intelligent upgrade as 5G comes of age.

State-owned automaker SAIC Motor, a major player in China, unveiled this week a new electric vehicle arm called Zhiji, in which Alibaba and a Shanghai government-backed entity are minority shareholders. The tie-up comes as Chinese EV startups like Xpeng and Nio and their predecessor Tesla see their stocks soaring in recent months.

Alibaba’s ties with SAIC can be traced back to 2015 when they jointly announced a $160 million investment in internet-connected cars. The partners moved on to form a joint venture called Banma (or ‘Zebra’) and Alibaba has since developed a slew of auto solutions for the Banma platform to enable everything from voice-activated navigation to voice ordering coffee, which is, of course, linked to the Alipay e-wallet.

Alibaba is certainly not SAIC’s exclusive supplier, as it’s also worked closely with the likes of BMW and Audi as well over the years.

For SAIC’s new EV brand, Alibaba will continue to be its “technology solution provider,” an Alibaba spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The other tech giant making big moves in auto is Huawei. Just this week, the telecoms equipment and smartphone maker announced it would fold its smart car unit into its consumer business group, which previously focused on handsets. The expanded group will continue to be steered by Richard Yu, regarded as the man who helped grow Huawei from an underdog in the mobile industry to a leading global player.

Huawei’s ambition in auto is “not to manufacture cars but to focus on developing ICT [information and communications technology] to assist automakers in producing cars,” the firm asserts in the statement, addressing rumors that it wants to encroach on traditional carmakers’ turf.

Huawei’s phone business has taken a hit since U.S. sanctions hobbled its supply chain. It sold its budget phone brand Honor recently in the hope that the spinoff, independent from Huawei, will be free from trade curbs.

#alibaba, #asia, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #smart-cars, #tc, #transportation

Harley-Davidson should keep making e-motorcycles

Harley-Davidson should continue to make electric motorcycles. That’s my big takeaway after taking home the company’s LiveWire for three weeks.

I’d ridden it on a closed course in 2019, but that wasn’t enough absorb the finer qualities of the 105 horsepower machine. After nearly a month and a thousand miles on the LiveWire, I’d venture to say it could be the most innovative motorcycle Harley-Davidson has ever produced.

That doesn’t mean perfect (particularly on the pricing). But with declining sales and the aging of the baby boomers — Harley’s primary market for chrome and steel gassers — the company needed to take a fresh turn.

HD’s first EV

Harley-Davidson did that with the LiveWire, which began as a concept and developed into the manufacturer’s first production EV, released in late 2019. The voltage powered two-wheeler is meant to complement, not replace, HD’s premium internal-combustion cruisers.

Founded in Milwaukee in 1903, Harley-Davidson opened a Silicon Valley office in 2018 with plans to add a future line-up of electric vehicles — from motorcycles to bicycles to scooters. The $29,799 LiveWire was first, though waning earnings and the Covid-19 induced recession have put HD’s electric plans in question.

On key specs, the Livewire will do 0-60 mph in 3 seconds, top 110 mph and charge to 80% in 40 minutes on a DC Fast Charger. The motorcycle’s 15.5 kWh battery and magnet motor produce 86 ft-lbs of torque.

Image Credits: Harley Davidson

The 548 pound LiveWire has an advertised city range of 146 miles (and 95 for combined city/highway riding).The electric Harley is also an IoT and app compatible vehicle, with preset riding modes — that offer different combos of power, torque and regen braking — and the ability to create custom modes.

Harley-Davidson added some premium features to the LiveWire, such as key fob operation, an anti-theft control system and a heartbeat-like vibration on the motorcycle.

That’s useful to remind the rider that the LiveWire — which goes silent at a stop — is still in run mode. In motion, the bike is basically quiet, though Harley-Davidson — famous for its internal combustion rumble — created a signature electric sound generated from the vehicle’s mechanical movements. It’s a barely audible buzz that gives the motorcycle a distinct voice as an electric Harley.

The ride

As an e-motorcycle, the LiveWire is remarkably balanced for a two-wheeler that has so much mass concentrated in one place: the battery.

At over 500 pounds, it isn’t exactly heavy by Harley cruiser standards, but the LiveWire is hefty for a naked sport bike. You definitely feel that weight pushing the EV around the garage, but fortunately — with some clever frame engineering — it fades away once the LiveWire gets rolling.

When I tested the LiveWire on a track in 2019, I noted that it brought everything that was becoming the e-motorcycle experience: huge torque and lightning-like acceleration with little noise beyond the wind moving around you.

More time and riding conditions with the LiveWire led to a stronger appreciation. I took it down the Hudson River Valley into Manhattan, up to three digits on I-95, and on the twisty backroads outside of Greenwich. The LiveWire looks and performs the part of a high-performance e-motorcycle, and in many ways, offers a more exciting ride than anything piston powered.

Image Credits: Jake Bright

The biggest rush on a LiveWire, compared to ICE peers, is the torque and acceleration. With fewer mechanical moving parts than gas bikes — and no clutch or shifting — the power delivery is stronger and more constant than internal combustion machines. You simply twist and go.

Like other high performance e-motorcycles, the LiveWire’s regenerative braking — or the extent to which the motor recharges the battery and slows the rear wheel coming off throttle — also enhances performance. Regen braking can be adjusted manually or by riding mode on the electric HD.

It takes some skill, but the end result is the ability to fly through corners in a smoother manner than a gas motorcycle — with little to no mechanical braking — by simply rolling off and on the throttle. This is complemented by the motorcycle’s lateral handling. In turns, the LiveWire holds a line as precisely as a Tron light-cycle (at least that’s how it felt conceptually).

This all translates into a riding experience of uninterrupted forward movement, without any racket and rattling. That the motorcycle also looks great— with lines and styling that hit the marks for an EV and a Harley — adds even more.

The market

With the LiveWire debut, Harley-Davidson became the first of the big gas manufacturers to offer a street-legal e-motorcycle for sale in the U.S.

The move is something of a necessity for the company, which, like most of the motorcycle industry in the U.S., has been bleeding revenue and younger buyers for years.

While HD got the jump on traditional motorcycle manufacturers, such as Honda and Kawasaki, it’s definitely not alone in the two-wheeled electric space.

Harley-Davidson entered the EV arena with competition from several e-moto startups that are attempting to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.

One of the leaders is California startup Zero Motorcycles, with 200 dealers worldwide. Italy’s Energica is expanding distribution of its high-performance e-motos in the U.S.

And Canadian startup Damon Motors debuted its 200 mph, $24,000 Hypersport this year, which offers proprietary safety and ergonomics tech for adjustable riding positions and blind-spot detection.

Of course, it’s not evident there’s enough demand out there to buy up all these new models, particularly given the COVID-19-induced global recession.

On the LiveWire’s market success (or failure), its tough to assess since HD’s reporting doesn’t include LiveWire-specific sales data.  One thing I (and others) have been critical of is the motorcycle’s $29,000 price. At just several thousand dollars less than a Tesla Model 3, it’s just too high — even for a premium motorcycle. But price aside, and that’s a big aside, I’d still argue the company succeeded with the LiveWire in a couple major ways. Harley-Davidson created an exciting halo motorcycle that established it as a legitimate e-motorcycle maker — in a distinctly Harley-Davidson fashion — while capturing public interest for its EV program.

What’s next?

For a company to reap the benefits of a successful halo launch, it needs to create a more accessible sequel. In July, Harley-Davidson’s newly appointed CEO, Jochen Zeitz, announced a five year plan — dubbed The Rewire — to adjust to declining sales and lead the company into the future. The strategy includes a massive restructuring and holding on (or even cancelling) some previously announced programs, such Harley’s gas powered Bronx model.

On whether the LiveWire — and producing new EVs — remain in Harley-Davidson’s future, Zeitz hasn’t been specific in confirming that in recent statements or investor calls.

Image Credits: Jake Bright

After some intimate time getting to know HD’s debut electric motorcycle, and assessing the market, my vote is for the iconic American company to continue its EV program and give us more. Offer a follow on that makes the rush, excitement and on demand capabilities of the halo Livewire available to the mases.

I could envision the company’s next EV product release including a scooter offering — registering Harley in the urban mobility space — and a more affordable e-motorcycle with broad market appeal.

What could that look like? Something priced around $10,000, lighter and more accessible to beginner riders than the 549-pound LiveWire, cloud and app connected with at least 100 miles of range and a charge time of 30 to 40 minutes. A tracker-styled EV channeling Harley’s flat-track racers — with some off-road capability — could be a winner.

Image Credits: Jake Bright

Getting it all right on specs, style and price-point will be even more critical for HD in a COVID-19 economic environment, where spending appetites for motorcycles will be more conservative for the foreseeable future.

But continuing the commitment to production EV’s is still Harley-Davidson’s bet to reach a younger market and remain relevant in the 21st century mobility world. HD’s Rewire should definitely include more LiveWire.

#california, #ceo, #cruiser, #damon-motorcycles, #e-moto, #e-motorcycle, #e-motorcycles, #electric-motorcycles, #electric-vehicle, #energica, #ev, #harley-davidson, #harley-davidson-livewire, #honda, #italy, #kawasaki, #livewire, #motorcycle, #motorcycles, #tc, #united-states, #zero-motorcycles

China’s electric carmaker WM Motor pulls in $1.47 billion Series D

Chinese electric vehicle startup WM Motor just pocketed an outsize investment to fuel growth in a competitive landscape increasingly coveted by foreign rival Tesla. The five-year-old company raised 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) in a Series D round, it announced on Tuesday, which will pay for research and development, branding, marketing and expansion of sales channel.

WM Motor, backed by Baidu and Tencent, is one of the highest funded EV startups in China alongside NIO, Xpeng and Li Auto, all of which have gone public in New York. With its latest capital boost, WM Motor could be gearing up for an initial public offering. As Bloomberg’s sources in July said, the company was weighing a listing on China’s Nasdaq-style STAR board as soon as this year.

Days before its funding news, WM Motor unveiled its key partners and suppliers: Qualcomm Snapdragon’s cockpit chips will power the startup’s in-cabin experience; Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving system will give WM vehicles self-parking capability; Unisplendour, rooted in China’s Tsinghua University, will take care of the hardware side of autonomous driving; and lastly, integrated circuit company Sino IC Leasing will work on “car connectivity” for WM Motor, whatever that term entails.

It’s not uncommon to see the new generation of EV makers seeking external partnerships given their limited experience in manufacturing. WM Motor’s rival Xpeng similarly works with Blackberry, Desay EV and Nvidia to deliver its smart EVs.

WM Motor was founded by automotive veteran Freeman Shen, who previously held executive positions at Volvo, Fiat and Geely in China.

The startup recently announced an ambitious plan for the next 3-5 years to allocate 20 billion yuan ($2.95 billion) and 3,000 engineers to work on 5G-powered smart cockpits, Level-4 driving and other futuristic auto technologies. That’s a big chunk of the startup’s total raise, which is estimated to be north of $3 billion, based on Crunchbase data and its latest funding figure.

Regional governments are often seen rooting for companies partaking in China’s strategic industries such as semiconductors and electric cars. WM Motor’s latest round, for instance, is led by a state-owned investment platform and state-owned carmaker SAIC Motor, both based in Shanghai where the startup’s headquarters resides. The city is also home to Tesla’s Gigafactory where the American giant churns out made-in-China vehicles.

In July, the Chinese EV upstart delivered its 30,000th EX5 SUV vehicle, which comes at about $22,000 with state subsidy and features the likes of in-car video streaming and air purification. The company claimed that parents of young children account for nearly 70% of its customers.

#asia, #automotive, #china, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #funding, #fundings-exits, #wm-motor

BlackBerry makes China push as the OS for Xpeng smart cars

The once-pioneering BlackBerry is pretty much out of the smartphone manufacturing game, but the Canadian company has been busy transitioning to providing software for connected devices, including smart cars. Now it’s brought that section of its business to China.

This week, BlackBerry announced that it will be powering the Level 3 driving domain controller of Xpeng, one of the most-funded electric vehicle startups in China and Tesla’s local challenger. Baked in Xpeng’s intelligent cockpit is BlackBerry’s operating system called QNX, which competes with the likes of Android and Linux to enter automakers’ next-gen models.

Sitting between BlackBerry and Xpeng’s tie-up is middleman Desay SV, which specializes in automotive system integrators like Aptiv. Desay SV, founded in 1986, has an illustrious past as a previously Sino-German joint venture that involved Siemens. The Huizhou-based company today supplies to Tier 1 automotive brands and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in China and around the world.

The kernel of Xpeng’s domain controller is NVIDIA’s Xavier cockpit chip for automated cars, so a good amount of software and hardware in Xpeng’s new car is based on foreign technologies.

The mass-produced Xpeng model in the spotlight is an electric sports sedan numbered P7. It features a processing unit that can calculate “the vehicle’s driving status and provides 360-degree omnidirectional perception with real-time monitoring of the surrounding environment to make safe driving decisions,” according to the announcement.

“Desay SV Automotive has extensive experience in intelligent cockpits, smart driving and connected services. Augmented with the safety expertise of BlackBerry QNX, together we can address the diverse needs of an auto industry that is undergoing meaningful transformation,” said John Wall, senior vice president and co-head of BlackBerry Technology Solutions, in a statement.

“To that end, it’s a real privilege to have BlackBerry technology powering the intelligent driving system within Xpeng Motors innovative new P7 system.”

The partnership arrives as Alibaba and Xiaomi backed-Xpeng is eying to raise up to $1.1 billion from its initial public offering in New York. Its Chinese rivals Li Auto and NIO raised similar amounts from their U.S. IPOs.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automotive, #blackberry, #china, #desay-sv, #eletric-vehicle, #ev, #nvidia, #xpeng

Karma Automotive raises $100 million as it looks to resell it EV platform to other automakers

Karma Automotive has raised a $100 million lifeline from outside investors, as reported by Bloomberg, with the struggling electric vehicle maker’s fortunes likely buoyed by the current market optimism on other EV companies including Tesla. Karma is the reincarnated version of Fisker Automotive, which previously faced bankruptcy before being acquired by Wanxiang Group in 2014.

Karma Automotive has made more progress than Fisker ever did, including actually delivering around 500 of its inaugural Revero electric sport sedan in 2019. The company will be continuing to sell the Revero, which retails staring at around $140,000, and will also be looking to add a high horsepower GTE version, as well as a supercar for an even higher-tier customer.

The automaker also says that it’s in discussions with a partner for a commercial delivery truck, which it intends to develop in prototype form by year’s end. There are a number of different companies pursuing delivery vans for use by courier companies including UPS and FedEx, and the increase in e-commerce spending does present an opportunity for multiple players to succeed in this category, even as there is a rush on in terms of entrants.

Karma will also seek to leverage and extend the benefits of its fresh investment by shopping around its EV platform to other automakers and OEMs, the company says, and also will eventually expand beyond pure EVs to hybrid fuel vehicles. In short, it sounds like Karma is willing to try just about everything and anything to chart a path towards profitability, but time will tell if that’s intelligent opportunism, or scattershot desperation.

#automotive, #cars, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #fedex, #fisker, #fisker-automotive, #greentech, #henrik-fisker, #karma-automotive, #karma-revero, #tc, #tesla, #transportation, #ups, #wanxiang, #wanxiang-group

Vaya Africa launches electric ride-hail taxi network

Vaya Africa, a ride-hail mobility venture founded by Zimbabwean mogul Strive Masiyiwa, has launched an electric taxi service and charging network in Zimbabwe with plans to expand across the continent.

The South Africa headquartered company has acquired a fleet of Nissan Leaf EVs and developed its own solar powered charging stations.

The program goes live in Zimbabwe this week, as Vaya finalizes partnerships to begin on-demand electric taxi and delivery services in markets that could include Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

“Zimbabwe is a sandbox really. We’ve moved on to doing pilots with other countries right across Africa,” Vaya Mobility CEO Dorothy Zimuto told TechCrunch on a call from Harare.

Vaya is a subsidiary of Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Group, which includes one of Southern Africa’s largest mobile operators and Liquid Telecom, an internet infrastructure company.

Masiyiwa has become one of Africa’s Gates, Branson type figures, recognized globally as a business leader and philanthropist with connections and affiliations from President Obama to the Rockefeller Foundation.

Working with Zimuto on the Vaya EV product is Liquid Telecom’s innovation partnerships lead, Oswald Jumira.

The initiative comes as Africa’s on demand mobility market has been in full swing for several years, with startups, investors, and the larger ride-hail players aiming to bring movement of people and goods to digital product models.

Ethiopia has local ride-hail ventures Ride and Zayride. Uber’s been active in several markets on the continent since 2015 and like competitor Bolt, got into the motorcycle taxi business in Africa in 2018.

Over the last year, there’s been some movement on the continent toward developing EV’s for ride-hail and delivery use, primarily around two-wheeled transit.

In 2019, Nigerian mobility startup MAX.ng raised a $7 million Series A round backed by Yamaha, a portion of which was dedicated to pilot e-motorcycles powered by renewable energy.

Last year the Government of Rwanda established a national plan to phase out gas motorcycle taxis for e-motos, working in partnership with EV startup Ampersand.

Vaya Mobility CEO Dorothy Zimuto, Image Credits: Econet Group

The appeal of shifting to electric in Africa’s taxi markets — beyond environmental benefits — is the unit economics, given the cost of fuel compared to personal income is generally high for most of the continent’s drivers.

“Africa is excited, because we are riding on the green revolution: no emissions, no noise and big savings… in terms of running costs of their vehicles,” Zimuto said.

She estimates a cost savings of 40% on the fuel and maintenance costs for drivers on the ride-hail platform.

At the moment, with fuel prices in Vaya’s first market of Zimbabwe at around $1.20 a liter, the average trip distance is 22 kilometres for a price of $19, according to Econet Group’s Oswald Jumira.

With the Nissan Leaf vehicles on Vaya’s charging network, the cost to top up will be around $5 for a range of 150 to 200 kilometres.

Image Credits: Vaya Africa

“It’s the driver who benefits. They take more money home. And that also means we can reduce the tariff for ride hailing companies to make it more affordable for people,” Jumira told TechCrunch .

The company has adapted its business to the spread of COVID-19 in Africa. Vaya provides PPE to its drivers and sanitizes its cars four to five times a day, according to Zimuto.

Vaya is exploring EV options for other on-demand transit applications — from delivery to motorcycle and Tuk Tuk taxis.

On the question of competing with Uber in Africa, Vaya points to the reduced fares offered by its EV program as one advantage.

The CEO of Vaya Mobility, Dorothy Zimuto, also points to certain benefits of knowing local culture and preferences.

“We speak African. That’s the language we understand. We understand the people and what they want across our markets. That’s what makes the difference.” she said.

It will be something to watch if Vaya’s EV bet and local consumer knowledge translates into more passenger flow and revenue generation as it goes head to head with other ride-hail companies, such as Uber, across Africa.

#africa, #auto-rickshaw, #ceo, #charging-station, #dorothy-zimuto, #driver, #e-motorcycles, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #energy, #ev, #kenya, #liquid-telecom, #nigeria, #nissan, #nissan-leaf, #obama, #oswald-jumira, #president, #rockefeller-foundation, #rwanda, #south-africa, #tc, #techcrunch, #transport, #uber, #yamaha, #zimbabwe

The missing links to grading Harley Davidson’s EV pivot

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